Matty Davis brings unique dance performance to The Momentary

Matty Davis brings unique dance performance to The Momentary

Matty Davis’ “Die No Die (Arkansas)” is not his first production created in the state. But “Die No Die” “couldn’t be more different” than his previous installation, “Until it reached into our lives and destroyed the tranquility that we had.”

It was 2018 when Michael Maizels from the University of Arkansas art faculty reached out to Davis, inviting him to “explore the complex political events and allegations” surrounding the “saga of Barry Seal, the Nella airstrip, Mena Airport and the alleged covert ‘drop-site’ in the Ouachita National Forest,” the UA reported at the time. Made up of sculptures alongside texts, documents, films and performances, the exhibition used “materials extracted from sites where the hidden events took place — earth hauled from runways, water drawn from rivers, spare parts mined from the Mena Intermountain Regional Airport aviation junkyard.”

“I love putting my hands on things, going into the land, collecting materials, really listening to a place and its people,” Davis says. “In coming down and making this work, I wasn’t interested in being some kind of Sherlock Holmes; I was interested in the way conspiracy theories are very real forces that ripple out and touch the lives of people, ordinary Americans and our own collaborative research group. We were sort of getting pulled into the vortex of that world.”

Cynthia Post Hunt, curator of performance at The Momentary, says she kept up with Davis’ work and in 2022, invited him to be artist-in-residence “with particular interest in creating a new work in response to the region, to the land and to our space.”

“The first was a gallery exhibition,” elaborates Davis. “In this case, it’s a live performance driven by what is the center of my practice, performance/choreography/publishing. The similarity that is really crucial is the responsivity, that both are deeply responsive to the forces of a place.”

“‘Die No Die (Arkansas)’ features a series of outdoor dance performances by six artists, connected by a procession across the grounds of the Momentary campus,” press information explains. “Each night offers an opportunity to choose your own experience: await the arrival of the artists at your preferred venue like an observer awaiting a shooting star, or join the procession and see it all as the performers race through the dark from site to site. Or, have it all and catch a repeat performance of ‘Die No Die’ from the other perspective — the choice is yours.”

Post Hunt says each viewer receives a map intended to help shape their experiences and to provide a keepsake of the performance, “and in that publication is an introduction to a lot of the ideas, the concepts, the feeling and emotion in the work.

“The performance itself feels like this really beautiful movement through the whole campus,” she adds, “and there’s something really exciting about being led through this journey through the eyes and the movement of other artists. Also, it’s this really beautiful deep dive into the details of a specific place. What’s really exciting for me is how Matty’s work simultaneously invites you to slow down and at the same time experience the bursts of energy that are like watching a shooting star.”

Davis says his art practice was initially influenced by high school sports — his first experience at being “a body among other bodies and having to navigate cooperation and teamwork and group dynamics” but not in a way “necessarily meant to establish a direct and concerted communication between one human and another human or a group of humans.”

But he also remains aware of the impact of his father’s death in a violent plane crash that involved more than 100 other passengers.

“I imagined that moment of a plane falling out of the sky, and you’re sitting next to somebody in this pressurized moment,” he says. “What is the last act that might be part of your life? In the time we have and with the people we’re surrounded by, what do you identify as valuable and want to do together? The creative framework of those questions is important to me. Harnessing that thought process serves my creativity.”


‘Die No Die (Arkansas)

WHEN — Gather at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 4-6; performance starts at 9 p.m.

WHERE — Starting in the Arvest Bank Courtyard at The Momentary in Bentonville

COST — $25-$50

INFO — 657-2335;


Look Here!

See some video created by Matty Davis for this event at

Categories: Galleries