At seven years old, Matthew Schreiber was already trying to build his first laser. At fifteen, he made his first laser installation. Since then, inspired by art history, pop culture, and sci-fi movies, the Brooklyn-based creative has been mastering the art of light while exploring how can it amplify a volume of space. At first, his work may feel intangible as it assembles a sci-fi movie or a computer simulation, but it isn’t. It isn’t an illusion, it’s very solid and real. Ready to get in?
Who are you and where do you come from?
I’m Matthew Schreiber and I grew up in Cleveland (Ohio), but I currently live and have a studio in Brooklyn (New York).
How did your interest in art start?
When I was five years old, my parents gave me a book where you learn to draw along with a television show. That is when it all began.
And what about your interest in light, lasers, holograms and such ‘special effects’? How did those practices develop till today?
When I was seven years old, I tried to build a laser. When I was fifteen – in high school –, in my physics class I made my first laser installation. In undergraduate school I earned a Fine Arts Degree in Painting, but I continued my study in lasers, more specifically holography.
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How was it to work with James Turrell for so many years? What were the biggest lessons you learnt from it?
Working for James was amazing and perfect for what I have been interested in (light and space). I also learned how to make light work, how to craft light and master it.
What inspires your work? I’ve read that science fiction movies really influenced you. Which ones are your favourites?
I’m inspired by my personal life, art history and pop culture. As far as science fiction movies, I would say The Black Hole, Andromeda Strain (1971), Primer, etc. And horror movies as well!
You say that with your work you explore the area between the tangible and the intangible, could you explain it to us? I assume it’s because of the light, which is visible but intangible, in a way.
With the laser work (laser sculpture) they look like something you might see in a sci-fi movie or in a computer simulation, but the sculpture is real and feels very solid (they don’t move, animate or have sound). So when a viewer interacts with this sculpture/space that they may think of as a simulation, they find that it’s actual; that has this in-between feeling.
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How’s the process of creating a new piece or installation? Does it vary much if the piece you’re creating is for a museum, a festival, or to be placed in nature? If so, how?
Every situation is different and I react to the site, the architecture, the context. This all makes the work feel different in how I approach it and how a viewer might respond.
Could you tell us a bit about the piece Ricochet, that you created last year for Day For Night Festival? It looks like a mysterious take in a science fiction film. What’s the concept behind it?
This is very simple, really. We just took the available space, found the extreme exact centre of it and made it a target (by measuring very carefully for about two days). The lasers then were simply aimed at this one point. The result is just a ‘plumbing’ of space, where the viewers get a physical sense of the space they are standing in.
In which way does your art interact with the public? Which feeling do you hope it evokes on them?
I am presenting situations that amplify or clarify a volume of space. I hope viewers get a sense they are standing in a real space, that they are not looking at a screen.
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Does the viewer’s perception of your pieces vary a lot depending on the perspective he’s seeing it from? Could you give us an example of how it can vary?
Yes, literally, because of the light and haze within many of my works (laser, light or holography) the angle of view completely changes the form. It is similar to the movement of reflections off of distorted glass.
Light art and light installations are so on hype at the moment, with light festivals going on all around the world. Nevertheless, you’ve been using this nowadays ‘trend’ for so long. How do you feel about it becoming so popular?
I didn’t know it was a trend until I just read this question. Wow, cool.
If you weren’t a light artist, what would you be?
An artist.
What are you currently working on at the moment? Any upcoming plans you can share with us?
I am making some large work for Dark Mofo in Tasmania. Also, a piece in Shanghai, new holography, etc.
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