As an undergraduate studying Visual and Environmental Studies, Matt R. Saunders ’97 spent his evenings in the Harvard Film Archive in the basement of the Carpenter Center. Now a visiting lecturer in the department, Saunders’s work has become part of a celebration of the building’s 50th anniversary with an exhibition there of his own.
Saunders’ exhibit opened with a reception and first screening on Thursday evening at the Archive. The exhibition, which runs through Nov. 4, combines painting, photography, and film. According to Carpenter Center Interim Director David N. Rodowick, who is also the chair of the VES department, Saunders’ exhibit is one of the several events this year that will commemorate the building’s anniversary.
Saunders, whose interest in film began when he visited the Archive as an undergraduate, designed the exhibit to use the Archive’s space cohesively with a three-part display. Saunders said his work is even less of an exhibit and more of a series of work that reflects what is happening at the Archive.
“What I wanted to do was not a show,” Saunders said. “I teach here, and I felt strange just showing my work in the lobby.… I wanted to use the space organically.”
The first part of Saunders’ work is print art shown in the Archive’s display cases. A combination of painting and photography, the work is, according to Saunders, “painted images used to expose photographic paper.” The printed display will change weekly according to what films are showing at the Archive.
Saunders’ exhibit also includes two displays of his individual paintings in short film clips. Saunders created the film by scanning several of his paintings and assembling them digitally.
One clip, made of black and white paintings inspired by a lake in Berlin, is projected underneath the staircase leading down to the Archive. The second clip, titled “China in Nixon,” will be shown on weekdays in the Archive Lecture Hall from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. The screenings are free to students.
For the building’s anniversary, Rodowick wanted this year’s programming to connect to the building in some way. Saunders’ idea, Rodowick said, uses the building itself as a form of artwork.
“[In the Archive,] normally students see photographs down there, you see film, but suddenly this is a way of activating the space and asking people to look at the space in a different way,” Rodowick said.
Rodowick also praised Saunders’ exhibit for its variety.
“What’s wonderful about Matt’s work…[is] how varied it is,” Rodowick said. “In Matt’s case, it’s not only a painting, or only a photograph, or only animation; it’s all of these things working together.”