Matthew Lax

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ARTIST STATEMENT

I create spatial and “cinematic” situations, introducing anachronistic, complicated indeterminacies which question normative behavior, institutional validity and cultural memory. As a queer identifying artist, this process of revision is integral: manipulate that which was, see what could be, not instead, but in addition. I meticulously re-fabricate to emulate or echo with tangible errors, in an effort to understand “how” or “why,” thereby queering the situation within a matrix of other possible realities and relations.

In Lil’ Tokyo Story, I play with translation and linguistic appropriation through a re-making of the climax of Yasujirō Ozu’s 1953 film, Tokyo Story. Part I uses the original Japanese text delivered orally, with subtitles literally translated into English. Part II repeats the scene, with the standard subtitles authored by the Criterion Collection, delivered orally, with subtitles literally translated back to Japanese.

My coded efforts produce a “cross-translation – a hybrid of written and oral dialects, pointing to the in-translatable loss, beyond the palatable poetics supplied by the distributor. The limits of textual, emotional and bodily representations are all but exhausted, further queered through a subtle, Brechtian, almost-passing drag, which also refers to the Japanese tradition of male actors playing all gendered roles which continued well into the 1930s.

I am interested in the malleability of the narratives which give such artifacts their meaning. In Apologie; basement tapes, amateurs re-perform the 1993 Calvin Klein Fall/Winter Campaign as originally shot by Steve Meisel. Ironically, the original advertisement was self-censored by the corporation amid public backlash during the Culture Wars; the aesthetics of which were clearly drawn from gay pornography and contemporary art, yet in this case, re-fashioned for the purposes of commerce. The screen-test is inherently anthropological in its gaze and bodily control; this violence is emphasized in an installation in which the viewer sits between model and off-screen voice.

Semantic and normative codes are made strange, undermining the bias of the original as well as the tidy narratives or parables typified by news media, propaganda, advertising and melodrama. My work is about looking, and then looking back.