Interview with Videos Collide artist Matt Barton

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Featuring live animatronics!

Matt Barton mixes artificial and natural, jest and earnest, high and low technologies in an attempt to blur the borders that separate, promoting a sense of totality and oneness of reality. He instills a bit of wonder in the lightest possible sense; tickling a remote nerve ending in the imagination and stimulating atrophied curiosity. Watch out for wired-up woodland creatures, video games, and the unexpected surprise sense that you are watching yourself as you are performing familiar routines…

First off, let’s start with a survey. There’s a lot of terms floating around that describe the ballpark of your media (video / performance art). In 4 words or less, describe in your own words what it is you think you do. How much is “video” and how much is “performance”?

Always in between things. Neither video nor performance.

Your collective works all have different levels of audience interaction. What is the relationship between you and the viewer? What’s the difference between the LIVE viewer and the viewer behind the screen? What sort of role does the two you play in relation to the other? Do you think there is ever a chance that documentation will ever take over live performance? Btw, HOW important / successful do you think documentation is in bringing your performance to the audience that isn’t physically present? Okay, I realize this is definitely several questions crammed into one.

Sometimes the “live viewer” is the final ingredient that activates and finishes the work, especially with the installation oriented, interactive pieces. In these cases I try to make the documentation it’s own thing, that might be able to stand on it’s own as a video beyond documenting something that the “unlive viewer” can’t physically inhabit. If it’s more of a video work that doesn’t have any physical spatial realm, I would rather it be viewed from someone’s home where they can enjoy it sitting down, laying in bed on their laptop, not feeling rushed. But I’ve only made a couple straight up videos that didn’t have some physical installation involved with them. I like building these alternate worlds that you experience face to face. There seems to be more of a confrontation to reality in a way when it exists for real, in real space, than just on a monitor, where that blur is part of the media already, not real and not real.

 

Extreme Animalz: the Movie, Part 1, 2005

Extreme Animalz: the Movie, Part 1, 2005

Performance art was touted as being more real than other forms of art because the presence of the artist and focus of the artist’s body is actually what gives the impression of “the real”. How scared on you when you get on stage? You’re essentially “naked” in front of your audience, in front of time, and LIVE snafu’s. How does the fear aid in your performance?

Sometimes I’m scared. I might shake a little. I don’t think fear “aids” anything really. Being in front of an audience makes you nervous and that can hopefully put you in a higher state of concentration and focus, what some people call the zone.

Where do your characters come from?

It varies. Sometimes it is who I am mixed with who I want to be or who I really don’t like. It gets unclear and ambiguous. I don’t want people to know if they are supposed to like the character or not. It’s fun to mess with that, going back and forth from being likable and then being sort of a villain and not letting people have too easy of a time deciding.

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How closely do you think what you do is connected to technology?

Technology is the worst. I use it for most projects and I always have troubles and stress and feel like I have no control over whether it will work how it is “supposed ” to and have to call my friends and get help. That adds to the anxieties when working on a live show that relies heavily on these stupid things to work that I can’t fix if it is not working. And technology is so fantastic because I can make myself dancing on a banana in outer space really quick.

What do you think about the idea of “rehashing” art?

I don’t know what “rehashing art” means. Like bumping it up to compete with all the entertainment in pop culture? I’m torn because I love to push the entertainment potentials of art, exploiting that stance, using entertainment forms but warping it to be more dreamlike, gunning for funny and disturbing finding a real nice harmony. Then again, art isn’t out to compete in those realms. Good stuff will always stand out and attract viewers and maybe the more monitor based we get the more “real” things will have a powerful impact. But if you mean “rehash” by bringing in new technologies and all that I feel like it has to happen organically, from good ideas, not the other way around. Sometimes I see real techy “art” that is obvious the person just wanted to use the software real bad and it turns out to be more of a demo of what can be done with that technology, all about the technology itself and it doesn’t take you to that place beyond the “how”.

And of course, what do you think about the current & future internet? Do you think it holds the fate of mankind in it’s web?

I can’t believe the world functioned without it. I’m not using it very well at all, just e-mail and some youtube. It’s an incredible resource that is like t.v. how it does amazing things, but the majority of us just use it to watch someone fall down dancing or something. As far as the future of the internet I have two stupid statements. The revolution will not be televised, it will be on the internet, for a few minutes, then the mass attention span will turn to the new Beyonce. And, 2012 might be a tiny shift, maybe from the magnetic field polar shift thing, that effects the subatomic level in a slight way that has a domino effect on reality, releasing us all from the physical realms, yielding a reality very similar to the internet, some astral superhighway thing.