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MATTEmatters: Some break the shell

By Marcela Filomena
Well, dear readers (I'm assuming some of you actually read what I write), this little love affair of ours has been going on for two months now...and I have yet to hear from a single, solitary one of you.  Seriously, feel free to participate, start up some lively debate (on our Matte Facebook page, on my personal one, on my pinterest), say you love something I've posted or hate it or anything in between.  Without feedback, is this simply an exercise in futility?

In any case, this week's post uses the film selection as the connecting link. Enjoy:

film - Those of you who have been following Park Chan-Wook's development since 2002's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are familiar with the director's penchant for extreme violence- but his use of subtlety may catch you by surprise in his newest film: Stoker.  Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, Park takes the classic thriller and wraps it in his signature picture-book flourishes and tormented idiom. It's a full-blown gothic nightmare, with cadavers in the freezer, shocking shower scenes and and an evil uncle to boot, but don't be fooled by the conventions of the genre and the overt and covert Hitchcock references.  The movie is a smorgasbord of style with a capital S; beautifully photographed and scored, with magnified sound effects and gorgeous shots of all three actors involved.

design - In a pivotal point in this week's film, creepy Uncle Charlie offers saddle-shoe-addicted India her first pair of adult heels, a lovely pair in red alligator.  To complete her transformation into a cold-blooded adult killer, however, she still needs a wardrobe to match.  Insert Biyan's S/S 2013 collection, balancing elaborate beadwork and embroidery with flowing, contemporary silhouettes, perfect for a girl just beginning to ripen.  Using recurring floral motifs inspired by the Pacific, these princess frocks and separates combine old and new to create a feeling of timelessness. Indeed, Indonesian Biyan Wannatmadja has cred to spare, having studied in both the Muller & Sohn Privatmodeschule (Dusseldorf) and the London College of Fashion, not to mention having created a fashion empire that includes a ready-to-wear line, diffusion collection, streetwear venture and Biyan Bridal, all of which are wildly successful nationally and abroad.  His recent inclusion in Net-A-Porter insures his continued success and our continued interest, especially since we can finally get our grubby little hands on his clothing.

art - A fountain of cobalt feathers splays out of an iron-grated fireplace like an oil slick.  White and gray twist into a contorted Escher shape, knotted like a plumed snake turning in on itself.  Kate MccGwire's work plays with duality- the softness of feathers, the associations with flight, and transforms them into heaviness.  The finished work is both natural and alien, poised on the threshold to a different world. As powerful testaments to the darkness within, her creatures are faceless and silent, whether trapped in antique medical cabinets or spilling out onto the floor. While our film's spectacular art direction and coloring are echoed in the sculptures, it is their ominous undertones of suffocation and sensuousness that bring home the drama.  
music - This week we're keeping it in the family.  While many of you may know cult classic Nick Drake, pigeonholed as folk but so much more, you probably didn't realize the influence his mother had on his unique brand of music. Molly Drake was never officially a recording artist- but a precious few of the songs she wrote for the entertainment of family and friends were included on 2007's Family Tree. Thankfully, the Nick Drake estate recently released an eponymous album along with a booklet of her poetry.  Just as compelling as her son, Molly's quintessentially English post-war blues are the missing link to understanding Nick's music, though more because of their differences than their similarities.  One can't speak of one without the other; their meditations on the fragility of happiness and the human condition, the inherent melancholy, the sheer intimacy- nothing ever makes you feel quite like the Drakes do.  I leave you with a poem, as read by Gabrielle Drake in A Skin Too Few:

The Shell
Living grows round us like a skin
To shut away the outer desolation
For if we clearly mark the furthest deep
We should be dead long years before the grave.
But turning around within the homely shell
Of worry, discontent, and narrow joy
We grow and flourish
And rarely see the outside dark
That would confound our eyes.
Some break the shell.
I think that there are those
Who push their fingers through
The brittle walls
And make a hole.
And through this cruel slit
Stare out across the cinders of the world
With naked eyes.
They look both out and in
Knowing themselves
And too much besides.

item - Beetle and Flor make ethical skulls.  Founded in 2007, the team offers design assistance to under-served communities who depend on craft to make a living. In order to help finance these low-cost services, Christine Facella creates porcelain animal skulls, inspired by her work as a science illustrator for the Vertebrate Paleontology department at the Museum of Natural History in New York.  Each skull is meticulously made to anatomically correct specifications and then formed into lamps, pendants or left as is: slightly morbid sculptures celebrating the natural world.