“GET THAT WHIP. IT’S YOUR LIFELINE”—MATT LAMBERT Revisits His Learner’s Permit Days

 

Berlin-based filmmaker and photographer MATT LAMBERT goes to LA to relive his adolescence, a time of existential doubt and unsatisfied anticipation. Filled with frustrated energy, Lambert was an explosive teen, seeking to see beyond his concrete skyline and experience life in full synesthetic glory.

You count down the days to freedom. The sprawling expanse of concrete and smoke offers an endless expanse of decadence. It’s oppressive. It’s alienating. It’s idle, menacing, sadistic, and I want it all. 

You’re sixteen. Get that whip. It’s your lifeline. It’s your universe. You’re “free.” You drip and swerve and burn. Ditch class, scour the streets, and invent new ways to destroy yourself. You want to shotgun and hotbox and bump and fuck and fight and smash with whomever you can grab. The freeway is the limit. 

This piece of steel and bondo and sweat and farts becomes your heart and head and cock. Wake-and-bake for breakfast on Santa Monica Boulevard. Get sucked dry on the 405. The guilt of a burning .25 and a QP under your seat on top of Ventura Blvd. The bass of 2 12s rattle in through your eye sockets and out through your balls on PCH. You sleep, puke, jerk, laugh, love, cry and almost die in it. 

It’s your prophet. It’s your bane. You smash it. You burn it. You throw it all away. Begin again. You are free. 

032c spoke with Lambert about then and now, youth and aging, and the journey from relentless anguish to uninhibited excitement:

What was the inspiration behind your recent Converse editorial?

I left LA 12 years ago, but so much of my filmmaking revisits the confusion of those years. The goal for these images was to capture the mood of the days before summer, specifically in my junior year of high school. They are meant to be ambiguous, as feigned apathy is a strength of teens—especially those in SoCal. The words give them their needed context and were reworked from journal entries from around that same time.

The writing you sent proffers the voice of a 16-year-old Matt. Do our worries and fears and dreams ever really change?

That time was characterized by a feeling of being lost, which often translated into angst and anxiety. Now it translates into wonder.

A lot of the imagery in the text is quite violent—burning, smashing, and self-destruction. How do ideas of destruction figure within your work?

My work used to be full of rage. Now it’s overloaded with love and intimacy. I used to play with violence and aggression in work to dismantle the fear of violence that surrounded me in my youth. If I play with it now, it’s to reclaim it.

What excites you now about life?

The endless possibilities and the unknown. 


Matt Lambert’s new book, Keim, designed by Studio Yukiko, will be released April 2015. A pre-order is available here from Pogo Books.

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