In The Studio

Matthew C. Lange

Photo by Adam Ryder

Photo by Adam Ryder

On a Thursday night not long ago, Matthew C. Lange could be found traversing piles of rubble and hoisting antiquated projection machines aloft on chains, all while wearing a business suit. A Buffalo native, Lange brings the grit of his hometown to bear on pieces like Archaeology of the Plummet Machine Vol. I. This installation and performance debuted in October in theSurviving Sandy exhibition at Industry City, a sprawling re-use space in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In preparation for the show, Lange constructed a site in the exhibition space hung with a patchwork grid of his photographic compositions and littered with cinderblocks and concrete detritus. This installation, as well as Lange’s other work, has but one concern: the distribution of information regarding the Plummet Machine. Luckily for us, this machine is a multifaceted one — a rubric of Lange’s own creation that he wields to make photographs, montages, videos, books, and performance lectures. The eponymous Plummet or “Plumb Bob” (its formal title) is a nod to Foucault’s Pendulum and one of seven aspects of Lange’s conceptual machine; others include “The Executive Board” and “The Sidekick.” Each of these components are played off one another in an ever-changing pattern, designed to underscore the utility of the Plummet Machine as a method for analyzing subjects ranging from the geopolitical to the pop-cultural. The machine is characterized by an aesthetic of dysfunction, often manifested through faulty or deconstructed mid-century information technology and educational photography. Although the project was conceived while he was a student in the School of Visual Art’s MFA photography program, its roots can be traced back to Lange’s former gig as a travelling salesman of encyclopedias — an experience that no doubt influenced his brand of broken-down modernism and his “everyman” performance persona. Regardless of the format (be it print, book or otherwise), Lange often offers his audience informational presentations that concern the Plummet Machine’s operations. These semi-comic routines are usually fraught with planned equipment malfunctions and long-winded discourses that reward the attentive viewer and perturb the casual one. But even stripped of Lange’s personal narration, his modestly scaled photographic prints and artist books are appreciable on a strictly visual level. The cool, minimal aesthetic of his images is nestled somewhere between his Pictures Generation forebears and his younger, Internet age contemporaries. Lange produces his images by hand, with traditional photographic equipment, as well as by digital means, creating compositions that range from playful to profound. Icons of image-display technology, from screens to projectors, appear most often throughout his work — totems of our increasingly visual culture. These devices are regularly dissected, analyzed, and violently destroyed, as a visit to his Bushwick studio will testify. Lange places the photographic medium on a spectrum with other lens-based technologies and implicates them in the potential to both sustain and upend ideological constructs.

Archaeology of the Plummet Machine, Vol. 1, 2013 (detail)

Archaeology of the Plummet Machine, Vol. 1, 2013 (detail)

Composition 2A: Plumb Bob, 2012-2013

Composition 2A: Plumb Bob, 2012-2013