Matt Siber (b.1972) is a visual artist based in Chicago working in photography, digital imaging, installation and sculpture. With an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, he has had solo exhibitions in Madrid, Berlin and Chicago among other venues. His first monograph, Idol Structures, was published by the DePaul Art Museum, Chicago in 2015 in conjunction with his solo exhibition. His artwork is part of many private and public permanent collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, and The Bidwell Foundation. His work has been published internationally in such publications as ArtForum, Sculpture Magazine, Ain’t Bad, Aperture and EXIT Magazine. He has received grants from the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the Aaron Siskind Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. Siber is Associate Professor, Adjunct in the Photography Department of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.
Collective Consciousness visually engages objects in educational space that make institutional learning possible. Thinking sculpturally, I aim to present these objects slightly outside of their usual context. Singular objects are reoriented, relocated, or photographed as monolithic; often appearing visually abrupt and obstructive. Careful attention is paid to the object’s relationship to photographic space.
Pushing the sculptural approach further, I create temporary assemblages of objects to be photographed. These constructions offer a range of possible metaphors regarding education and culture. My assemblages walk a line between the verge of collapse and relative stability. I am interested in this tension as a way to think about the process of growing and learning as a young person. I see a playfulness in these photographs that references many of the grade school approaches to making learning interesting and fun.
The bulk of this work was made during the pandemic in an empty school. The idea was refined and strengthened in response to the pandemic as a way to employ the idle educational objects in the absence of children and teachers. The presence of students limited what I could assemble without risking student safety. The empty school gave me license to create pieces that are more precarious, and sometimes fall down. An empty school also afforded me access to the classrooms, whereas the pre-pandemic pieces had to be created in hallways.
Release Date: April 29, 2022
This image is the result of a creative breakthrough I had one afternoon in the empty school. I had been working this way for a year and a half and was searching for fresh ways to approach my idea. This was the first assemblage I made that used something other than the floor as a platform. This selection of chairs was present in the hallway at the bottom of these stairs. It is a typical variety of styles, materials, and colors. This assemblage began with a single chair inserted into the stair railing with a second chair on top as a counter weight to keep it in place. The rest followed from there with a couple of minor collapses before reaching its final form.
Release Date: October 7, 2022
This image was made in the thick of the project. I had already done a lot of experimentation with assemblage and had developed a strong visual language to work with. I came across this group of chairs carefully crammed into a corner of this classroom. In-person schooling had returned and distancing measures meant that a lot of the school furniture needed to be pushed aside. I was working on Wednesdays, which were for remote learning. The chairs struck me in their uniformity of design. It’s far more common to find a mix of designs in a public school. The stack of uniform chairs obscures the world map behind it creating metaphorical relationships between the institutions of learning, the pandemic, globalism, and global/social awareness.