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As I sat in the SFAI lecture hall this past Thursday, waiting for the Cinematheque program of Gordon Matta-Clark’s films to begin, I was surrounded by a vibrant buzz of conversation. Not only was the place packed, it was packed with people who knew quite a bit about Matta-Clark, judging from the snatches of conversation drifting back to my row. The first film, Tree Dance, was student work, unrecognizable as a “Matta-Clark” except for two things. One was visual—the climactic shot of sun shining through a dancer’s legs was reminiscent of the most famous image of Matta-Clark’s Splitting, a sun-spangled view of a house sawed in half. The other had to do with method — the “tree dance” involved hanging by ropes from a height. A later film documenting Office Baroque showed Matta-Clark drawing on the facade of a building, swaying on a small platform suspended by heavy ropes. By the time of the third film shown, Fresh Kills, Matta-Clark was hitting his stride. Fresh Kills follows the demolition of Matta-Clark’s red truck through its dismemberment by bulldozers to its integration into the weird trash landscape that is the Fresh Kills landfill. The strategy of making art by deletion is clear. The films Bingo and Office Baroque, which followed, documented the architectural carvings for which Matta-Clark is known. It was a satisfying and revealing evening. Even if you missed it, you can get the catalog Cinematheque produced to accompany the films—a steal at $20.00. It’s so hot off the press it doesn’t seem to be listed on their Web site yet, but you can get it. Here’s the link to order their publications.

- Meredith Tromble [Monday, March 29th, 2004]

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