Substrait (Underground Dailies)

Gordon Matta-Clark

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Staff Picks Substrait (Underground Dailies)
Gordon Matta-Clark

35 Minutes
Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Staff Picks

March 1-31, 2024

Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978), an artist whose practice has significantly influenced the trajectory of contemporary art, delves into the subterranean landscapes of New York City. Selecting a range of sites such as the New York Central railroad tracks, Grand Central Station, 13th Street, Croton Aqueduct in Highgate, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine among others, Matta-Clark unveils the complexity and variety of the city’s underground spaces. This exploration challenges the conventional perception of New York as a predominantly “vertical” city, highlighting instead the crucial “horizontal voids” beneath it. These spaces, described by one of the characters in the work as the city’s “hot arteries,” are indispensable for its survival and growth, mirroring the societal reliance on the working class.

In the context of a 1970s New York City marked by urban decay and social upheaval, Matta-Clark’s work transcends mere documentation to become a commentary on the city’s crisis of identity, the destructive forces of gentrification, and the socio-economic divides exacerbated by capitalist practices. As a co-founder of Anarchitecture, Matta-Clark critiqued the architectural excesses and illusory materialization of the American dream through land ownership and the historical damage inflicted by modernist designs, viewing them as manifestations of capitalist ideology. Matta-Clark’s fascination with negative space, spontaneity, and the emergence of order from chaos is vividly expressed here through his engagement with the film medium. Utilizing a 16mm camera, he navigates the invisible layers of the city, capturing the essence of New York’s transformation and decay with a vision that mobile filmmaking could facilitate.

Substrait (Underground Dailies) is a great example of Matta-Clark’s critical yet casual reflection on urban growth, sustainability, and the collective right to the city—themes that continue to resonate in contemporary discourse.

Presented as the March 2024 edition of e-flux Film’s monthly series Staff Picks.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Film, Urbanism, Architecture
Documentary, Experimental Film, Video Art, USA
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Gordon Matta-Clark was born in New York in 1943 and died in 1978. He studied French literature at the Sorbonne and Architecture at Cornell University. From the early 1970s, as a founding member of the artist-run Food Restaurant in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Matta-Clark participated in numerous group exhibitions and projects. His work was presented in Documenta V, Kassel, Germany; and at exhibitions in Sao Paolo, Berlin, Zurich, and in the 9th Biennale de Paris. Major projects by Matta-Clark were staged in Aachen, Paris, and Antwerp. Following his death, major retrospective exhibitions have been organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany; and IVAM Centro Julio Gonzalez, Valencia, Spain, among others. In 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, honored him with a retrospective entitled Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure. In 2017, the Bronx Museum of the Arts presented Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect, a major survey featuring more than one hundred works by the artist.


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