Miwa Matreyek enters her own animations as a live shadow figure | Dance + Live Performance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Miwa Matreyek enters her own animations as a live shadow figure

The effect is magical and something audiences around the globe have marveled at.

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Miwa Matreyek might still be working in commercial animation, she says, had she not thought to incorporate herself into her animations. As in February’s performance here by dance company Pilobolus in Shadowland, the Los Angeles-based animator, director and designer appears in her works as a shadow figure, but one who interacts live with recorded imagery. The effect is magical and something audiences around the globe have marveled at.

Matreyek, a 2007 graduate of CalArts with a master’s degree in experimental animation and integrated media, says that while in school she started collaborating with people in theater and puppetry. It got her thinking about animation and video projected on a screen as something she could interact with as an environment. Her resulting works combining elements of collage animation and live shadow silhouette have been seen at Sundance New Frontier, Lincoln Center, Adler Planetarium, Meta.Morph (Norway) and REDCAT.

Matreyek makes her Pittsburgh debut on Sat., April 8, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Mammals in two shows of two solos, each performed back to back, as part of the Strange Times series, co-presented with Carnegie Nexus.

The older of the two, 2010’s “Myth and Infrastructure,” was her first real foray into the medium of animation and performance, says Matreyek by phone from Los Angeles. The 17-minute piece, set to original music by her friends, the composers Anna Oxygen, Caroline and Mileece, “is about the power of imagination and creativity,” she says. Matreyek creates a world where everyday household objects come to life in fantastical ways.

Conversely, the 30-minute “This World Made Itself” (2013) is a journey through the history of the earth. Performed to music by Flying Lotus, Careful (a.k.a. Eric Lindley) and Mileece, the piece plays like skipping through the pages of a children’s encyclopedia “from the universe’s epic beginnings to the complex world of humanity.”

The award-winning artist says she has always been interested in “big picture” themes in her works. “I have never made a boy-meets-girl standard storyline, nor have I had characters in my works,” says Matreyek. “Even ‘the shadow’ in my works has been a larger-than-life representation of consciousness and humanity.”

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