A bearded man in his thirties skips across the gum-speckled sidewalks of Myrtle-Broadway. “Batman on Broadway!” he announces at-large, his voice echoing under the elevated subway tracks.
He flails about in a superhero costume and does a leaping kick in the air. His funny noises are interspersed with sweeping statements about love. He runs in place, dances, jumps and crouches ninja-style. He’s light on his feet, but the effect is more Disney than Marvel Comics. Some pedestrians stop and stare, others keep walking. A dozen cellphone cameras are whipped out and by evening his antics will be up on Youtube.
Thus ends my encounter with Bushwick-based performance artist Matt Silver. An hour before this we sat in a local café and discussed his work over glasses of strawberry juice.
“When I perform I really want to tap into the heart of it. The heart of it is, I want to make you laugh.”
I wonder about what the members of his regular Broadway audience really think. After all, his “stage” is within walking distance to the mental hospital on Flushing Ave. Don’t you ever feel shy, I ask him?
“Sometimes I feel shy. Like right now....”
As he speaks his hazel eyes twinkle and his hands make opera-like gestures, but in between questions he seems as bashful as a four-year old. The thing with Matt is you’re never quite sure whether he’s performing or not. But according to him he’s always performing.
“When I was younger I was inspired to stay on, like all the time. I was inspired to be this other character.” He tells me that his parents eventually got used to it.
You might be tempted to dismiss Matt as just another New York street performer. To do so would be to miss his most engaging works--the steady stream of mini-epic films that he writes and stars in. Titles like Heartpocalypse and Love Comes Out of Your Butt are shot on location and include a sizeable cast and crew. (Some of his most memorable scenes included actors dressed as giant sheaves of corn stilt-walking under the Broadway el.) The fantastical films have a great cinematic flair. A recurring character is Man in White Dress: Matt as a misanthrope in a thrift-store wedding gown trying to spread a message of love.
“Love is a universal theme. It’s a good mythic adventure, like the search for the holy grail. For me it’s called the love portal. It’s the search for the love portal, to open it up. That would be amazing.”
He then tells me that his next film will involve a three-headed monster. His larger goals are just as ambitious.
“My project is to become that mythological clown character. I don’t know, over these years, one of the reasons I street-perform is because like I want to become a mythic hero. That would be fun before I’m dead. I mean, it would just be fun, you know? Becoming like a mythic clown. And just use it to make people laugh. I’m gonna do that.”
Back on the street Matt dashes across the heavy traffic on Broadway to take up a new post next to Popeye’s Chicken. He struts and crouches, jumps and dances. Some spectators call out, “Hey Batman!” and dance along with him. “Love is all you need!” he shouts.