Mathew Tom: Whisper Residency

Mathew Tom: Whisper Residency

5 November – 7 December 2014

On Wednesday 3rd December 2014, Mathew Tom opened up his studio at CFCCA. During his month-long stay at CFCCA, Mathew worked on and developed his practice and his Society of Friends project.

Since 2011, Mathew Tom has been describing in the form of videos, photographs and drawings a fictional spiritual community called Society of Friends. It is a reflection of his ideas of utopian society turned dystopian through boredom, vanity and a desire to believe. On the outset, a perfect place where beauty and belief reign, but the onset of boredom, lack of structure and narcissism lead to dissatisfaction.

Coming from a mixed ethnic background, a Chinese father and American mother, Mathew Tom is interested in this idea of cultural melding leading to identity confusion. In Society of Friends, the men have Chinese features but are placed in a world which combines iconography and aesthetics from his living in India, America and England.  Every feature, from their posture to their possessions embodies a philosophical proposition, problem or solution. Acting as avatars of himself, each “friend” represents an individualized function of a train of thought, whether this is monotony, homoeroticism or questioning of belief systems. All of them play together to create a universality that leads to broader philosophical dialectic.






Fun and Games


He Knows He Is Not Real

What are your first impressions of Manchester?

Mathew Tom: Oh so far I’ve been really impressed. Because I’ve never been to Manchester before so I had this impression that it was going to be this really industrial city, but I come here and see it’s very vibrant and alive and very modern.


How are you hoping Manchester and your time here will help inspire and develop your work?

MT: Once I came I started looking more into the history of Manchester and I was very intrigued by some of the social history. So maybe some of these politics and some of these ideas that happened here I can implement into my art. And also I’m interested in the music culture, see how that affects my work – just here I can hear all this noise and music outside, it’s a really interesting environment.


Most of your work is based around your project “Society of Friends”. Can you tell me more about the ideas and inspirations behind that project?

MT: I used to live in India for a while, and I whilst there I became intrigued by this idea of a trans-cultural, utopian society and so I thought if I created a structure – my “society of friends” structure – I could implement any ideas very easily, and put them in  a cohesive world. So I like to some painting, drawing, film and photography and just put them into one solid idea. I wanted to create a structure in which my art could fit into.


What are your current plans and ambitions for Society of Friends?

MT: I have a lot of big ideas, but my main focus for this is that I’m working on a screenplay. To create a film based on this society, so with my time at CFCCA I’m making a start on the storyboard and ideas behind it. Ideally I’d like to have a feature length piece – like an hour long.


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