Matta-Clark’s film work falls within a context in which artists were taking control of the field of art at the same time that they were creating alternative spaces (such as 98 Greene Street, where Matta-Clark worked) and exploring new territories beyond objects and galleries, making the creative process the focal point of their concerns. With pieces like Fire Boy, Pig Roast, Tree Dance, Chinatown, Voyeur and Fresh Air in 1971, Open House, Automation House and Fresh Kill in 1972 and Sauna View and Clockshower in 1973, the artist’s camera became an instrument for experimenting with performance film, a formula where the artist executes an action for the camera. In 1973, Matta-Clark introduced and transgressed the architectural body, using a saw to create his first ‘building cuts’ (Pier In/Out in New York, Infraform in Milan and A W-Hole House: Roof Top Atrium and Datum Cut in Genoa). In 1974 and 1975, with Bingo, Splitting, Day’s End and Conical Intersect, he began a new relationship with these film-documents, recording the cutting procedure that he applied to typical suburban houses and then to a small North American city, thus restoring the experience of this new relationship with space to film space.
With Substrait (1976) and Sous-sols de Paris (1977), Matta-Clark returned to the subsoil, to the lowest part of the architecture, to explore the ‘negative’ spaces in the city. With his monumental building cuts and film explorations in which urban space remains in an intermediate place, Matta-Clark’s last works bring together the higher regions (of the building) with the lower ones: the sewers with the sky.