Arts House chat: Matthew Sleeth

A Drone Opera is a multimedia performance featuring drones and their pilots, opera singers, a laser light design and moving images. With custom drones – unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs) – designed by artist Matthew Sleeth, it explores the cultural and social impact of the rapidly developing technology.

Australian artist Matthew Sleeth lives and works in Melbourne and New York. His conceptually driven work includes sculpture, photography, video and public installation is widely collected and been exhibited in Australia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Cologne, Berlin, Venice. His large-­scale sculptural installation The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization (and Other Obvious Metaphors) opened at Claire Oliver Gallery (New York) in December 2011, and in Melbourne, his work has been seen at the Melbourne International Arts Festival and was part of Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2013.

Matthew Sleeth
Matthew Sleeth

How do you describe your show to your friends?
It’s a cross between a dance work and an opera, except there are drones instead of dancers and the look and feel is cinematic, almost like a live movie.

Who or what inspires you outside of theatre?
Visual art and film. I am mainly a visual artist and film maker, this is my first live performance work. In terms of visual art, it’s hard to go past the conceptualists, especially early performance/video artists like Roman Signer.

What was your first idea for this show?
About three years ago, it started as a gallery project where I was going to use drones to paint two canvases at either end of the gallery during opening night.

Did it make it into the final work?
No, it turned out to be illegal.

What show or whose work changed how you saw theatre?

Quite a few dance works. Lucy Guerin’s Motion Picture was amazing and I am interested in Anthony Hamilton’s use of machines and objects in performance. But mainly the people who have influenced my approach to live performance are my collaborators in this project, people I have wanted to work with for years like Kate Richards, Sue Frykberg, Robin Fox, Phil Samartzis, Shelley Lasica and Bosco Shaw.

What makes you curious?
Other artists. I am always amazed by my peers, especially the ones that find new languages for their works and move past the formula that made them initially successful.

A Drone Opera
10–13 September

Arts House, Meat Market


Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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