Miwa Matreyek Steps into Her Animations

For Walker Art Center's Expanding the Frame, a series combining film with performance, California-based animator and performer Miwa Matreyek will be presenting her unique work where she juxtaposes shadows of herself performing on various images. There will be two screenings this evening, each including two works. In Myth and Infrastructure, Matreyek meditates on creativity in a loose, fantastical way, while The World Made Itself takes on the history of Earth using a surreal space that creates a visceral journey for the audience. 

We chatted with Matreyek about her process and work.

In terms of what you are doing with your body, would you describe it similar to dance? 

Miwa Matreyek: I don't have a dance background, but it's basically dance, because it's choreographed to the music and animation. It's very composed. It's 'interactive' in that I'm interacting with the animation and being a part of that world, but it's not interactive in the sense of it having interactive software. It's pretty choreographed and planned out.  

How long have you been working with this technique of juxtaposing shadow and performance with animation? 

It's something that I started exploring from my first year as a grad student. It's been a very slow progression of experimenting and discovering things. For my own work, it started in 2007 when I made my thesis, which was a live performance. It was kind of an early version of what I'm doing at the Walker. 

Have you always been interested in science? Has it come up in your work before?

Yeah, it's come up in surreal ways always. I was actually a physics major for the first two years of undergrad. I feel like the area that I've always been interested in science has been a fantastical place of imagining micro and macro worlds, or what would it be like if I could shrink down and be in that world, or be in outer space and feel and see something that we can only use our imaginations to pretend to experience.

So there's that sense of trying to create that [in my work] and putting my body into it in a dance-choreography kind of way. Hopefully, because it's my real body in the space, it helps to draw the audience in more, as opposed to if it were a pre-made animation with a green-screen body. I feel like the reaction I get from the audience is that they're kind of drawn into the body and into the world a little bit more. 

Are there other artists doing this that you have been inspired by? 

I really love Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno and that series. It's all about sexuality in the insect world, or the mammal world. Through imagery and costumes, she's telling a story about those worlds and making them more accessible. I also think about Georges Méliès and how he was very early on an inventor, creating these dreamscapes through illusions and also making it so enticing for the audience to want to go along with him. Michel Gondry has been an inspiration, too, especially with his old nude videos. He built an illusion setup and pushed it  beyond  the obvious and kept pushing in surprising ways within certain kinds of parameters.

Is there an environmental message to your work? 

There is, but it's more subdued. I've never been interested in being didactic or making one single statement about things. I think I'd rather show a lot of the tapestry and images, giving a feeling or an impression.


Miwa Matreyek for Expanding The Frame

6:30 and 8:30 p.m. THursday, January 29

Walker Art Center

The World Made Itself and Myth and Infrastructure will be shown at both presentations