Using both autobiographical strategies and complex systems for classifying the world, Matt Mullican (Santa Monica, California, 1951) explores the different ways in which subjectivity manufactures and organises reality. His work is an architecture of practices built up over the years, assembled with different languages such as drawing, video, installation, architecture, and performance.
The desire to enter images –to break through the surface of matter so that content can become inhabitable space– is a key to understanding his early performances under hypnosis, the emergence of characters such as the stick figure Glenn, and his groundbreaking city simulation and virtual reality projects.
'M.I.T. Project' (1990-2009), a work from the MACBA Collection, began as a spatial adaptation of one of Mullican’s cosmologies. It consists of a quasi-architectural three-dimensional space divided into five compartments, with a series of objects systematically arranged in each, as in a cabinet of curiosities. Each section is organised according to a colour code. The green zone is 'the elemental world', for example, containing minerals, mounted butterflies, embalmed animals, and a human skeleton.
The red zone, symmetrically opposite, is 'the subjective' realm and sets up a kind of ideal polar opposite in which there is no matter, only pure meaning. The three remaining spaces are like steps from form to content, and focus on the in-between stages of 'the iconic' (black and white), 'the world framed' (yellow) and 'the world unframed' (blue), which includes a giant flag, a steam engine, and a boiler.
Mullican's work runs through him in first person. He uses himself as a medium, while keeping his distance from simple biographical dramatisation. He approaches his unconscious as a found object. In the videos 'Matt Mullican under hypnosis' (1996) and 'Untitled -Matt Mullican under hypnosis: Zurich' (2003), also in the MACBA Collection, he goes on stage and improvises under the effects of a hypnotist. Over the years, this recurring practice led to the emergence of “that person”, a multifaceted entity of indefinite age and gender, a lover of beauty, coffee, and everyday rituals who has the capacity to disrupt any taxonomy or rational ordering system.