Presented by Broadleaf Theatre for the 2020 Progress Festival, This World Made Itself & Infinitely Yours are two multimedia live performances created and performed by Miwa Matreyek. Each is concerned with the earth, its natural phenomena—specifically its varied forms of life—and the impact of human industry.
Inserting her silhouette into projected animations, Matreyek creates a distinctly human form with which we can identify as she traverses the ever-shifting landscapes. The overall effect is wondrous and hypnotic as she manipulates her her body, and a variety of props, from behind a large screen.
In This World Made Itself, we open with the birth of the universe. Celestial events unfold before us, leading, eventually, to an early earth. A delightfully whimsical, abstracted vision of evolution follows—from microscopic life filling the oceans all the way to us.
Infinitely Yours focuses on Anthropocene, the current era of human influence and our effect on earth’s natural systems. It opens on a phantasmagorical forest fire, a nightmare-scape where our shadowy audience surrogate finds herself amidst floating embers and fleeing animals. From there, the imagery is dominated by slaughter houses, factory assembly lines and collapsing mountains of landfill.
A particularly stunning sequence shows us the desperate grasping towards the surface of a figure drowning in an undulating ocean full of plastic. There are also moments of overt body horror as industrial machinery tears into flesh. An explicit connection is being drawn here between mass production and bodily harm.
In both pieces, there is a very explicit sense of human structures as invasive and oppressive—a corruption of nature. Neither piece is concerned with the nuances of human progress or the complexities of the capitalist trap we’ve forged for ourselves. These are visual tone poems expressing the organic beauty of the natural world and grieving its ruination.
Matreyek’s work is an impressive artistic and technical achievement, coordinating multiple layers of projected image and matting techniques. The end result is undeniably stirring, though the live aspect is mostly hidden from the audience in a way that renders it almost unnecessary. Both pieces are experienced, for the most part, as short films. The brief moments where I caught Metrayek on the sides of the screen were quite exciting as a reminder of her presence. I yearned for a more visually exposed integration between performer and image.
At its core, This World Made Itself & Infinitely Yours is an environmentalist ode to nature and a lament for its destruction. Matreyek’s work is less interested in concrete awareness or activism than it is in conveying a more metaphysical, emotion-centic sense of climate catastrophe to fester in your psyche.