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Tracing the departed

Martin Walch

Pink Floyd, God Flesh, The Beach Boys, Canadians David Cronenberg and comic book artists Seth, Chester Brown and Joe Matt. This strange alliance of music and cinematics is typical of the diversity of works that inspire Tasmanian video artist Matt Warren.

His most recent piece is a video installation titled I Still Miss You, which has only recently finished showing in the new gallery belonging to CAST (Contemporary Art Services Tasmania). The work occupied a corner of the main gallery as part of the exhibition Transmission, curated by Jennifer Spinks, featuring the work of Sarah Ryan, Troy Ruffels, Leigh Burnett, Matt Calvert, Kate Warnock and Warren.

Within a screened-off section of the gallery, a suspended video projector beamed deep into a darkened 4 by 6 metre space carpeted with road metal an inch thick. A step onto the heavy gravel, and I was confronted by the amplified crunchings of my footfalls issuing from speakers in the ceiling. Here I stopped, turning my attention to the pool of flickering images on the wall.

Backed by a deep thrumming chord with an almost metallic edge which completely filled the space, the video unfolded as a series of impassioned monologues enacted by a man and a woman in a car in heavy rain. We see them from a distance at night, and yet cannot hear their dialogue. While the camera position remains stationary, the view closes in to focus on each face, sometimes pleading, sometimes ranting, while all the time washed by red and yellow sheets of light sprayed from the night traffic spilling past, periodically punctuated by a convulsive strobe that lit up the cockpit of the car like the wing of an aircraft.

A series of hypnotic sequences evolve that explore the dynamics of what seems like a relationship break down, all held in the tight confines of the steamy domestic sedan. The entire drama is seen through a foreground of luminous waves animated by the sweeping pulses of the wiper blades across an incandescent ocean that is the fish shop window of the windscreen.

A central thematic of Matt Warren’s’s work is an investigation of his own experiences of absence and loss, through a subtle and confident manipulation of his medium. Both of the characters occupy the driver’s seat in the argument (physically and metaphorically), and this device is used to explore a series of alternative developments of the conflict. The viewer realises the arbitrariness of his/her own narrative assumptions, and this results in a process of reflection upon one’s own existence, and beyond to the link between Warren’s own work and the autobiographical montage of the comic artists mentioned earlier.

Warren has been working with video and sound composition since he taught himself to edit with 2 VCRs while at Hellyer College in Burnie, and his qualifications now include a BFA in Painting and a Graduate Diploma in Video, both from the University of Tasmania. Warren has just been offered a Samstag Scholarship to undertake postgraduate study overseas, and he is currently negotiating with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to pursue an MFA in Interdisciplinary Practice, beginning late 1999. I have no doubt the Samstag Scholarship and associated travel experience will add to Warren’s eclectic nature, and I’ll be very keen to see how new influences enhance the elegant processes of layering and synaesthesia that characterise his work.

See review of Matt Warren’s short film Phonecall which screened as part of the recent Multimedia Mini-Festival in Tasmania,

RealTime issue #30 April-May 1999 pg. 23

© Martin Walch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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