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Matthew van Roden, I AM A TEXT

November, 2017

CDU Master by Research candidate Matthew van Roden presents their latest body of work, I AM A TEXT

In this video, wax and print installation, van Roden explores the relationship of text and the body through through the lens of religious experience, queer embodiments and the materiality of wax, text and flesh.


It’s hard to know as an artist; within the complex web of history and personal experience; through the lenses of gender, race, sexuality and class; within the scaffolding of an upbringing in one mode or another; according to a set of shifting systems of religious and cultural beliefs; against the backdrop of privilege and trauma; precisely how a creative practice is formed. How are my specific sets of circumstances formative and contingent? Is there something else despite or supported by those forces that in some way has always, or always would have simply ‘been’. I don’t expect or particularly need to resolve such questions, however, as more or less rhetorical devices they facilitate a suspended scepticism, which allows for experimentation, critique, indulgence and play; that resist the primacy of one influence or force over another.

However, to take, temporarily, a linear, historical view. There were certainly specific trajectories that have been formative, and influence the direction of this research. In the same way that one can say that the personal is political, the personal is also disciplinary, in that what piques one’s interest becomes in some way autobiographical. For those with the privilege to choose, vocation trumps work, precisely because of the presumed agency of choice.

For myself, the path to a creative practice was literary rather than visual. My formal studies were in Philosophy and Theology; My interests were in critical theory rather than art history; my formative years were immersed in music rather than art and scripture rather than politics. I was always queer: strange, different, suspicious, conspicuous; qualities which allowed me to pass through distinct identities and cultural spaces, especially decidedly gendered ones; even within the ridged structures of heterosexist, fundamentalist religious institutions and the community structures they construct and enforce.

So, my coming to ‘be’ an artist took a less traditional route; one that formed within my thinking and practice a suspicion of the limits of the notions of trajectory, particularly traditional ones. Suspicions of the limits such trajectories may impose on creative understandings and outputs: the limits of the school, the academy, art history, career. Further suspicions have lingered in my mind: What kind of art am I making? Is it even art at all? What is it also? And it is in wrestling with this later question particularly, that the seeds of this research were sown.

To be explicit, I have always understood my work to be textual and to be queer; that somehow there was a profound connection between those two terms, and yet whist I saw the outputs of my practice as absolute articulations of the fact, they were underpinned by something intuitive rather than defined. The purpose of this research is to explore in an applied way, what is both queer about a textual creative practice and what is textual about a queer creative practice; where these conditions overlap, and how they resist notions of disciplinarily, even interdisciplinary.

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