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BOS Projects #2: Matthew Cowan

June 1 June 2, 2013

NURTUREat is delighted to have presented The Trees are Thick with Butter, a new performance and exhibition by Matthew Cowan, in conjunction with the Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) weekend and in the future home of Storefront Bushwick, at 324 Ten Eyck, St., Brooklyn.

The exhibition was open to the public on Saturday, June 1 from noon to 10pm, and Sunday, June 2, from noon to 7pm. The opening reception was on Saturday, from 7 to 10pm. A musical and dancing performance took place on Saturday, at 7pm.

The Bear and the Dancing Man, Performance stills from video recorded at the Heaton Park Bear Pit, Newcastle upon Tyne, May 2008.

Matthew Cowan is a New Zealand artist, working in the realm of traditional European customs. His works are photographs, videos, installations and performances, which play with the inherent strangeness of the continued popularity of long established folk customs in a modern world. These works can be viewed as mock folk performances in themselves, playing with the elements of folk rituals that give people a link to the past.

In 2009, Matthew Cowan was artist in residence at the Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. The Trees are Thick with Butter presents in fact elements of folk English dance and music, and consolidates them with other recurring figures in Cowan’s performances, like the hairy “Wildman” and the cross-cultural figure of the country doctor/charlatan or “Quack.”

The exhibition and performance also referenced the medieval mythological fantasy of Cockaigne, a land where life is full of inversions, socially and physically, and life is so idyllic that no one has to work, and food (in this case, lumps of butter…) literally grows on trees. Also referenced is the English tradition of Mummer’s Plays, a kind of ritual drama with stock characters and nonsense speech.

See the documentation from the performance on June 1st below. Music by Paul Friedman, Camera by Rachel Steinberg.

The Trees Are Thick With Butter from Matthew Cowan on Vimeo.