Matthew Wang: for you, I want to be beautiful

‘Aeroponic’ – root systems nourished by air – Acts is the name given to the nomadic Dutch Art Institute’s final Kitchen presentations. Each participant addresses one question. 

Here you will find the documentation of Matthew Wang's presentation as filmed by Baha Görkem Yalım. The written report is by Bethany Crawford and it includes a summary of the comments by esteemed guest respondents.

for you, I want to be beautiful

Matthew's Introduction:

yellow mist,                                                         who yearns the wind

      fade us between                                            dream and wake

           my heartbeat pronounced,                   as the world begins to soften

              angel’s breath,                                       sweep over me

                  plucking at my spine,                      shivering

                    where your body meets mine,    already dancing


                     is it not incredible how fast a world can crumble?

                     how heavy that world must be, on your shoulders


                     from down here, our space is vast,  

                     a well so deep it envelopes the world

                     we wave our hands into the air, 

                     floating until our touch meets another presence


                                  we will meet each other in the sea

Bethany's report: Wang’s durational performance work gathers the audience outside Radio Kootwijk with the performer on the ground at the opposite side of the pond with a red piece of fabric. They move with tension, slow purposeful movements, and settle into unnatural poses, sensuous and also uncomfortable and precarious, reflected perfectly in the still water. An unintentional soundscape of guns going off in the woods intensifies the apprehension. The performer moves along the edge of the pond, incorporating the red fabric more and more in the movements. Once they bring themselves to stand, the movements intensify, the draping of the fabric becomes more theatrical, enveloping the performer as they bend and writhe in a skyward reach. After the audience follow the performer away from the enclosure, the performer throws the fabric onto some plants and collapses onto the ground.

Amit S. Rai commented on the beauty of their movements, which were problematized in relation to stillness. It made him think that attention is the minimal degree of movement, in relation to sociologist Gabriel Tarde’s idea that identity is the minimal degree of difference. He thought of the pre-Raphaelites, anime, crawling insects and the metamorphosis of the body into a non-human body, interested in the relationship to the red cloth opposed to and part of the performer. Freud’s work on the repetition compulsion – e.g., a child plays with a ball by throwing it and it comes back – came to mind related to the death-drive as he thought the work was a report from the end of the world, at once beautiful and anxiety inducing. 

In this poignant work with moments of incredible power Flavia Dzodan at times felt she should avert her eyes. She thought about displaced people who are constantly forced to perform intimacy in the open, domesticity forced into the public space. It made her rethink the public and the private, which she thinks about when she thinks about technology. ‘Maybe it’s never been a useful distinction’, she said, as there have always been people who haven’t had the luxury of these distinctions. The performance put into perspective these moments of intimacy when your life takes place in the public eye and people just walk past and made her question if these distinctions existed and about the exacerbated blurring through technology. 

Adam Szymczyk thought of the importance of the fragile ending, the suspension of attention and the moment of relaxation in the audience, which is difficult and crucial to think about as an ending: open or with clear closure. Beginning with an iconic image as in iconographic fetishes, he thought the demonstration of stillness and slowness was quite beautiful. The careful choice of colour evoked certain dance forms in Japanese theatre for Szymczyk, who pointed to the precise use of the cloth that recalled baroque painting and the staging of drapery in a setting built for sending messages that added extra tension, yet performed outside off stage or into the beyond.

Mathew Wang's for you, I want to be beautiful was presented at Radio Kootwijk.

Find the overview of all 35 AEROPONIC ACTS 2020 here: BEND IT!