On Dec. 5, 2011, current fifth-year senior and digital arts bachelor of fine arts student Matthew Starr made a film on Forest Avenue in front of the clock. Plates lying helplessly on the ground in front of a male actor were stiff in the cold, winter air. As he walked around, pouring chocolate onto the plates, a TV sat on the small, wrap-around wall in front of him, rattling off news.
As the film progressed and Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” started playing over the background noise of the news, the actor proceeded to rub chocolate on himself and performed implied sexual actions on top of the plates.
“You can pull meaning from the lyrics as they align with what he’s saying, what’s going on in the movie,” Starr said. “It’s cold, he’s almost naked. Several students walk by, and no one stops. I think maybe one girl stops.”
In September 2012, Starr sat in room full of computers in the School of Fine Arts, watching his film.
“If I would have seen this going on I would have stopped,” Starr said. “It’s the kind of stuff I wish I’d see going on around campus.”
Starr’s main area of expertise, however, is projection.
“A lot of artists are making the switch to digital technologies,” Starr said. “Just to do anything removed from the screen I think is really powerful. I mean, you’re constantly surrounded by screens, cell phones and computers. To take these images and to manipulate them in a different way, I think there is definitely an affinity from the viewer participant to whatever it is someone’s showing.”
This past summer, Starr received an invitation to exhibit his projection-based work at the Toolkit Festival in Venice, Italy. His piece got best in show.
“I have shaky hands so I don’t draw, I don’t paint,” Starr said. It’s hard for me to do animations and stuff since my ADD has gotten worse. It’s hard for me to sit behind a computer for 10 hours and just work. Now it’s just, I feel like I’m not really proficient with the programs anymore, and I just come up with these installations and figure out ways around doing those type of things.”
One of Starr’s installations, “Memory Bank,” documents his childhood memories. It is composed of mixed media, including one video projector, a rotating motor, a prism, seven mirrors and cloth. At one point in the projection, a rapid fire cacophony of images, lights and sound featuring Mickey Mouse and ninja turtles burst forth.
“I feel like, when those parts come up every few minutes, I mean, the whole room lights up, it’s really intense.” Starr said. “Obviously I think the project is beautiful, not just aesthetically. For me, it’s still really to go back.”
This summer, Starr did more than go to Italy. He visited a doctor.
“I was having really bad retention problems so I went to get an MRI and CT scan,” Starr said. “They just wanted to make sure everything was okay. When I got the MRI scan back first they said there was something there, but they weren’t sure what it was.”
After taking the CT scan in order to shed more light on the unknown presence on Starr’s brain, doctors discovered a benign abnormality on the very front of his brain.
“It was pretty awful for about a week because all they knew was that it was an abnormality,” Starr said. “Every once in a while I think about it. Between your brain, your heart and your spine, those are three things you don’t want to fuck with. To find out there’s this undefined abnormality in your brain is kind of hard to swallow.”
Starr glanced at the video of the installation on the computer screen before
“The whole idea is to kind of create this memory bank for myself so if the day ever comes, if I do lose my memory, then I can look back on these installations.”
Though having the abnormality has affected the way Starr approaches his work, he does not let the negativity surrounding it affect his plans for the future.
“No pun intended, it’s always in the front of my brain,” Starr said. “There is something romantic about having something in your brain that nobody really knows what it is. I think it plays into a more grandiose story.”
Starr plans on going to graduate school in New York, eventually. For now, he will continue to work on his installations and focus on school. The next biggest exhibit Starr will present is his thesis project in the spring.
“It will be my most complex installation,” Starr said.
Starr has also been invited to exhibit his work in the 23rd annual New Orleans Film Festival from Oct. 11-18.
“I think coming into all of this with no background, I mean, I hate drawing,” Starr said.
“I feel like I’m dying when I’m drawing or painting, it’s awful. I am so unmoved by going to galleries and seeing paintings. Even videos on the wall, they don’t do much for me.
“I figured, if I’m going to do anything, if I’m going to give myself to the whole arty-farty thing, it’s going to have to be something that moves people. If it moves me then I’m assuming, hoping, that it will move people.”
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The conference will focus on musical improvisation from the Middle Ages onward.
Tickets start at $35 and go on sale in August.
The group will make its way to Bloomington for a show at 9 p.m. tonight.