Recap: Miwa Matreyek's Immersive Performance & Workshop

April 11, 2019

Often these works that are made from an impulse can actually influence the larger trajectory of an artist’s work, or establish collaborations that spark new pathways.

– Miwa Matreyek

Miwa Performance
A scene from Matreyek's performance of "Myth & Infrastructure"

Otherworldly multimedia artist Miwa Matreyek brought her live performances, which combine her own shadow silhouette in interaction with her own animations, to University of the Arts March 27 and 28. She also led a masterclass, presented a demo and delivered an artist’s talk.

This World Made Itself—staged with Myth and Infrastructure in the Arts Bank the evening of March 27—is a visually and musically rich journey through the history of Earth, from the universe’s epic beginnings to the complex world of humanity. Matreyek’s animation is colorful and bright, and her performance evokes harmony with the natural world. She is excited by the various forms of new life emerging from Earth’s depths and the center of the universe. Point-of-view shots of feet walking on a beach immerses viewers in the scene, making them feel as compelled and exhilarated as she is. This connection makes the struggle between nature and humanity all the more haunting, as it destructively creeps its way into the performance later on.

In Myth and Infrastructure, Matreyek traverses ocean-scapes and cityscapes as she explores the creativity and the dreaming we can find in our own domestic spaces. It evokes a sense of ethereal weightlessness: Matreyek crafts her performance to reflect the act of flying or swimming, which could be interpreted as a form of imagination. She becomes a part of her detailed landscapes, using dual projection to weave in and out of scenes, threading herself between buildings in the city, and interacting with creatures of the sea.

Numerous influences had an impact on Matreyek’s artistic approach. As an MFA student at Cal Arts, she began the Experimental Animation program thinking she would work in animation after graduation. Instead, the inspiration Matreyek found in numerous media sparked work that encompasses interactive performance: puppetry, theater, multimedia, music and even critical perspectives of her films from artists in other disciplines pushed her art in a more varied direction.

Miwa Masterclass
Matreyek and students work together with projection

“I feel it’s important to also have a way to show work that allows for work-in-progress and one-off experimentation,” she says. “Often these works that are made from an impulse can actually influence the larger trajectory of an artist’s work, or establish collaborations that spark new pathways.”

Her student workshops continue providing inspiration, both to Matreyek and participants. “These workshops try to foster impromptu problem-solving, play and experimentation,” she says. “The groups present their performances, and we discuss what kinds of discoveries were made in the process and what future avenues of inquiry they might pursue to expand upon their work.”

Impromptu problem-solving, play and experimentation were exactly what happened during her masterclass. Students were split up into small groups comprising a variety of majors—Animation, Dance and Theater, for example—and were given white fabric, paper, cardboard boxes and projectors. The rest was up to their imaginations. They had only an hour and a half in which to create performances. An ad-libbed performance utilizing projection as a transportation to space kicked off the presentations at the end of the class. One group crafted an immersive projection box, in which viewers could lay down and stargaze as the silhouettes of hands made the sun rise and shooting stars dart across the sky. The last group combined experimental animation, dance and layers of fabrics and textures to tell a story through movement. At the end of the day, the students were excited to continue experimenting and utilizing projection and performance in the future.

Miwa Class
Matreyek and students view the final performances in the masterclass

“I am interested in making students engage physically with media with their bodies and materials, to find moments of storytelling and transformations that can be investigated and pushed further,” she explains. “There is a sense of ‘you won’t know until you try’ that leap-frogs out to ‘what if I try this … or this?’ [That sense] engages students in playful experimentation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

Matrayek’s visit was a part of a series of pop-up events staged over two weeks by UArts’ forthcoming Center for Immersive Media, or CIM, which will be dedicated to exploring the fields of virtual and mixed reality, performance motion-capture and human-computer interaction. Further funding was provided by the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy.