Martine Syms: Reading Trayvon Martin
September 4 2013
“Reading Trayvon Martin” is a personal bibliography for the criminal case following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. The site tracks articles and essays relating to the case that artist Martine Syms has read and bookmarked, each one presented as a headline with an accompanying link, devoid of timestamp, source, or tag.
Syms’ project began on April 2, 2012, with an article entitled “Trayvon Martin’s Last Minutes,” which was published by CNN shortly after the case began to receive national attention. From this point, her bookmarks wind through a range of media and opinion, including mainstream news sources, like the New York Times, Associated Press, or the Huffington Post: Black Voices; local press like the Tampa Bay Times; in-depth opinion from Think Progress or Colorlines; and even primary documents such as a PDF of Shellie Zimmerman’s signed testimony. What accumulates is an archive of intense attention, one that, as Syms noted, has no “foreseeable end” as her interest persists even after the case has left the national spotlight. Part document, part ongoing performance, “Reading Trayvon Martin” reflects an active, emotionally engaged reader navigating the maelstrom of coverage that the case received.
By preserving the reception of the case as it unfolded within the media, “Reading Trayvon Martin” works against the way coherent memory and media synthesis are at odds with the continuous flow of fresh dramas and crises. Taken together, the headlines offer a time capsule of conversation around the Martin case and, on a deeper level, reflect the rage, despair, empathy, and institutional prejudice that permeate US history and are so entrenched in current events.
Here, reading, once considered a solitary endeavor, is re-examined as an active stance through the added dimensions of posting, sharing, reframing, and thus contributing to a broader conversation across social media. The act of bookmarking becomes synonymous with the process of staking out a position, publicly declaring a side or a perspective.1
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.