Set in 1852, The Syphilis of Sisyphus records the monologue of a young, pregnant Parisian as she traverses the garrets, alleys, and hospitals of her city. Her pun-filled polemics burlesque the Romantic-era contest between ‘Nature’ and ‘Artifice’ that dominated politics and aesthetics at the time. In imagining the characters and spaces of Paris on the verge of Haussmann’s modernizations, the film collages three centuries of urban visuals, including the Turgot Map, photographer Charles Marville, Honoré Daumier, and Fernand Léger.
Mary Reid Kelley was born in South Carolina in 1979. She studied Art and Women's Studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and received her MFA in Painting from Yale University in 2009. She has had solo shows in New York, Los Angeles, and London, and completed a commission for the 2010 SITE Santa Fe Biennial, The Dissolve. Her work has appeared among others in Artforum, Frieze, Art in America, The New York Times, and The LA Times.
Her work is in the collections of Yale University, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The University of Michigan, the Goetze Collection and the Zabludowicz Collection.
Her video work combines poetry, performance, animation, and painting, and is generated through an intense engagement with language, literature, and history. While in residency at the American Academy in Rome, Mary Reid Kelley, her husband and frequent collaborator Patrick Kelley completed The Syphilis of Sisyphus (2012), which the New Yorker called “a kind of feminist-steampunk French-history lesson." In April 2012, Art in the Twenty-First Century will broadcast a documentary on the filming of The Syphilis of Sisyphus as part of the Season Six episode, “History."