Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Matt Siber.
Lives in Chicago
How do you describe your own art practice?
My practice employs a breadth of visual strategies that serve to isolate, emphasize, and recontextualize the essential elements of large, societal systems. The motivation behind this practice is a desire to better understand these systems through visual dissection and engagement.
My entry point into contemporary art was through photography. Most of my work relates to photography in some way. Over the past decade I have been working with sculpture and installation in concert with my photographic work. I am interested in the intricate relationships between objects and photographs; and I use those relationships to subvert and examine the infrastructure of consumerism and other large systems.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
My main practice grapples with advanced capitalism, consumerism, advertising, and the systems of persuasion. My early career as a commercial photographer in the 1990s gave me insight into this field. My visual examination of the building blocks of this ubiquitous presence is my attempt to better understand how it works while aiming to defuse it somewhat by laying it bare for the viewer.
For the past two years, I have been an artist in residence with an organization called CPS Lives. They place artists in Chicago Public Schools for one-year art residencies. My first year of residence was cut short by the Coronavirus Pandemic, so I was given a second year to make work (in an empty school). With Collective Consciousness I used similar strategies as I do in my main practice to focus on the idle infrastructural objects in these learning spaces during the pandemic. These temporary sculptures exist only as photographs and offer a wide variety of metaphorical interpretations.
What was your first experience with art?
I’m not sure how to answer this one. My parents are scientists who have a strong appreciation for all the arts. I was taken to museums, concerts, plays, musicals, etc. regularly as a child. American school systems incorporate art into the curriculum at the earliest stages of education. I did take an after- school darkroom class when I was in second grade. Perhaps that planted a seed. I didn’t see art as a career path until I was nearly finished with my university studies in history and geography.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Frustration. Anger. Outrage. A desire to understand. An ever-increasing awareness of how power is structured. A belief that we can do so much better. There would be no point in any of this if I didn’t believe that. Experiencing the ongoing resurgence of fascism has certainly increased my cynicism, but we are definitely capable of better. The bar is pretty low these days.
What do you need in order to create your work?
Time is probably the most important element. I don’t get a great deal of that these days with two daughters in grade school. I have an outward-looking art practice that derives inspiration and meaning from the world around me. I have no shortage of subjects to address and avenues to pursue. Having a camera is very helpful, but I also like the meditative process of working through something formally in three dimensions in my studio.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
I’ve been very inspired and energized by some of the work that was produced during the early stages of the pandemic. So many artists used the pandemic as a catalyst to take bold new steps in their practice. I found Carolyn Drake’s Isolation Therapy work extremely inspiring in helping me work through my Collective Consciousness project. My Chicago colleague Iris Bernblum has been doing a fantastic series of monochromatic watercolor work based on nude selfies her friends and colleagues submit to her. There is so much depth to this project, especially as it was conceived during the isolation of early pandemic lockdown.