Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Interview with Miwa Matreyek

REDCAT presents the Los Angeles premiere of Infinitely Yours by animator, designer and performer Miwa Matreyek for the debut of her latest work. Running for three performances from Thursday, January 16 through Saturday, January 18, 2020, the award-winning interdisciplinary creator brings her nightmarish vision of climate grief to Los Angeles audiences before heading to Park City, Utah for the works’ world premiere during Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program. Infinitely Yours will then embark on a North American tour throughout June. 
In our conversation Matreyek discusses the project in detail.

This brilliant new work, Infinitely Yours, sounds like a film but is, at the same time, a live theatrical experience. I see it’s also headed to Sundance’s New Frontier program, which is where Festivalgoers get "a peek into the next dimension of storytelling,” as they explain on their site. Describe for our readers your new piece's exact nature and composition.

MM: I am an animator, designer, and performer. I create live performances where I step behind the screen and into my kaleidoscopic moving images that are projected onto a screen, and interact with them as a shadow silhouette. My work is at once fantastical and visual like cinema, but is also physically present, intimate, and about creating an emotional connection with the audience, like theater. My work often weaves in narratives of nature and humanity with my shadow taking on various scales of consciousness and perspectives.

Describe what you mean by dreamlike.

MM: My work tends to not have any text, and doesn’t follow a specific character or a clear narrative. Rather, the images the audience sees are surreal and poetic, while also being a physical experience for the shadow silhouette they see on screen. Shadow is interesting because it is physical (cast by a real body) but also abstracted. As a shadow, my body can get larger than life, to show close-ups of my face, my hands, my feet, etc, as well as play with cinematic tropes and conventions, like POV shots. By combining a real body with the video, I want the dreamlike or nigtmare-ish visual moments to seem like real experiences happening to the physical body. 

The work also very much plays with illusion, and transformation, and can feel like a magic show.

From whence does your inspiration come for this issue of climate change?

MM: Much of the inspiration came from news article headlines about climate change that I’d been seeing in the last few years. I began notetaking and cataloguing these articles, as they became inspirations for the images and embodied experiences, as I was imagining up ways to create a metaphorical version of the headlines. A giant body emitting trash in a landfill. A figure reaching in to the ground and pulling out oil.

Apart from making audiences aware of climate change and what it is doing to destroy our world as we know it, what are your other goals with this project? What would you like to see people do to help?

MM: I would say creating a discussion about climate change is my main goal. I often incorporate artist talks when I tour (especially with university presenters). With Infinitely Yours, part of the talk will be not just about the inspiration (articles, books) but also my personal struggles as I wrestle with personal choices in my everyday life. Much of the imagery in the piece came from my daily life –  the plastics floating in the polluted ocean scene is plastic trash I generated. I began doing what I call a plastic audit, where I collected all the plastic trash I generate in a month (rather than putting it out in the blue bin to be taken away every week). It was eye-opening to see the month’s worth of trash in one place, to think through the choices I made in the grocery store, and how I might make those choices differently. Some items, like grains, I can fairly easily avoid plastics by going to a store that has bulk bins. However, some other items, such as tofu, seems impossible to acquire without generating plastic trash – unless I figured out how to make it myself, or completely stopped eating it. I think there is something to be said about stopping and reassessing all the choices we make everyday - driving or taking public transportation, eating plant-based foods or not, buying new or getting used, etc etc. 
I feel like in our world, we need a wider imagination of the before and after of the choices that we make – we tend to see only the moment. I am interested in the work rattling the audiences a bit to reconsider the befores and afters of the choices that they make.

The music we’ll hear in Infinitely Yours is by Morgan Sorne aka SORNE but he did not create it with you or for the piece, correct? How did the two of you approach this collaboration and will he perform the score live at other shows beyond REDCAT and Sundance?

MM: I met Morgan a few years ago when a friend invited him to one of my shows in Los Angeles. Since then I got to know his music and as I started working on Infinitely Yours, I began to feel his music really resonated with the energy and feeling of the scenes. I asked Morgan if he’d consider me using his music, and he said yes, so I went through his whole discography (he has many albums!) to start to pin down which songs work for the project. He gave me the song files, which I was able to start adding animation to, and use the music to help define the structure of how the images and scenes unfold from one to the next. As an animator with some music background, letting the music really drive the energy of the visuals is key for me, using the  rhythms and beats to drive the visual beats. 

So the idea is that I have one version of the full show with all pre-recorded music, including his vocals, and another version of the full show with a lot of the layers in the music removed, so that Morgan can perform live with his vocal and instruments. How often we get to do this will be up to the presenters and our availability....

If you are live on tour with the project, will you answer questions from each audience after the presentation?

MM: Yes, normally there is a Q and A after the shows, where I answer questions from the audience. A lot of my touring takes place through university presenters, and I plan to incorporate artist talks, discussions, and workshops as well. With my past work, the focal point of my talk had been mainly about making interdisciplinary work, and my process. With Infinitely Yours as part of the tour, I’d love for the artist talks to also focus on climate change, sustainability, and personal choices. 

With a run-time of 25 minutes, the L.A. presentation of Infinitely Yours will be paired with some of Matreyek’s older work, creating an 80-minute program, which will include a 15-minute intermission. Each performance will begin at 8:30 pm. Tickets for Infinitely Yours are $22 or $18 for REDCAT members, and all ages are welcome. The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) is located at 631 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For tickets, please call the box office at 213 237-2800 or visit https://www.redcat.org/event/miwa-matreyek-infinitely-yours.

• Miwa Matreyek - www.semihemisphere.com
• Matreyek’s Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/miwamatreyekartist
• Matreyek’s Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/matreyek
• Matreyek’s Twitter - https://twitter.com/miwamatreyek
• Matreyek’s Vimeo - https://vimeo.com/matreyek

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