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Miwa Matreyek’s Self-Made World

March 19, 2014 by Jacki Apple in Performance with 0 Comments

Miwa MatreyekI have been watching Miwa Matreyek’s work for several years now, and have become familiar with both her image vocabulary and unique ways of blending film and live performance.  Her combination of projected animation and contemporary shadow play have a magical quality in which the convergence of the common everyday world with the fantastical create an immersive dreamlike effect.  The constantly changing scale of the objects and settings that populate her visual mis en scene, along with the metamorphic transformations they undergo, would be enough to take you through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole into an enchanted universe. Add to that Matreyek’s live silhouette seamlessly interacting with the projected images in such a way as to seem as if she is manipulating them in the present moment. But Matreyek’s work is more than mere visual wizardry.  Her ongoing narrative themes deal with the cycles of life and death from the cosmic to the individual, the beauty of nature, and humanity’s creativity and destructiveness.

Her newest work This World Made Itself  is a thirty minute evolutionary journey traversing the history of the Earth from the Big Bang to life in the postmodern techno-urban global infrastructure.  As in her earlier works she raises questions about how we as a species interact with our habitat and the larger eco system of our planetary environment, through the interface between the metaphors embedded in metamorphic montages and her illusionary interventions in them.

In Myth and Infrastructure 2010 Miwa’s life-size silhouette interacts with the projected environment. She holds a tiny figure in her hand. Buildings sprout up, a city grows and she walks through it.  But then there is the spinning red apple and the ivy that grows over the city. The apple falls into the sea and turns into a spinning atom, an egg in a nest, and ends up in a mixing bowl turning into a cake.

Once again in This World Made Itself  Matreyek propels us through time-space integrating past, present, and future into a complex unified realm of existence. Stars explode. Molten lava spews from volcanos. Fire gives way to water, plants grow, jellyfish emerge, fish swim.  She swims  with them in the sea and blue bubbles rise. Land emerges, jungles and flying insects. She walks through canyons and rock formations. The orbiting planet, the sea foam on the tides, the starfish and snakes give way to industry, oil wells and cranes uprooting soil, black smoke, refineries, chickens in cages, and a smoggy city skyline. She grows bird wings and feathers turn into missiles. The bombed city lies in ruin. And then it all begins again. Seeds, plants, snails, jellyfish, dragonflies, etc.  all guided by her magic touch. It is a transcendent vision made all the more so by the uplifting musical score created by Flying Lotus, Careful (Eric Lindley) and Mileece.

Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Scott GrollerUtterly seduced by the spiritual message and sheer visual beauty of the work, I hadn’t previously thought about the paradoxical contradiction in the imagery in which science and religion are at odds. Consider the fact that her life-sized hands make the stars and the fire and the trees. Her hands make the fish swim. Her fingers make the skyscrapers rise in the night sky as she looms over the city she traverses. When all fall to ruin she restores the earth as her hands make the light in the universe turn into new life.

Is Matreyek cognizant of the biblical reference, the suggestion of Genesis in her image as a goddess dreaming up and creating the world and everything in it? At the same time Matreyek’s passion for science is clearly at the core of her philosophical position on the nature of the universe and everything in it. On one hand we have Einstein’s interchangeabiity of matter and energy, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and String Theory’s waves and particles as a vibrating unity.  On the other Evolution slams head-on into Intelligent Design. The title of the work This World Made Itself suggests the former, while Matreyek’s hands play into the latter with God as a kind of puppeteer.  It is a dilemma because the ways in which she orchestrates the live performance with the projected video are what makes the work so magical and evocative.  So the question remains –is this unresolvable paradox part of her story or an unintended consequence of her technique.

Miwa Matreyek: This World Made Itself and Myth and Infrastructure
Friday, February 7, 2014 to Sunday, February 9, 2014
REDCAT, 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
More information: http://www.redcat.org

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About Jacki Apple

Jacki Apple is a Los Angeles-based visual, performance, and media artist, designer, writer, composer, and producer whose work has been presented internationally. Her writings have been featured in numerous publications including THE magazine, The Drama Review, Art Journal, and High Performance. She is a professor at Art Center College of Design. Originally from New York, she was the first curator at Franklin Furnace in the 1970s.

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