1- Yes Matlab works as expected without going through ssh.

2- Repeat the above but first do a "ssh -X localhost" triggers the
problem.

3- Both scenarios hold regardless of how I login ("Ubuntu", "Ubuntu on
Xorg" or "Unity").

As you mentionned the DISPLAY variable I checked the following (maybe it was 
obvious, but not to me):
     - ssh@localhost
     - echo $DISPLAY returns localhost:10.0
     - export DISPLAY=:0
     - matlab & then plot(1,1). 
     - it works. (tested in "Ubuntu", "Ubuntu on Xorg" and "Unity")

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https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/1726595

Title:
  Running Matlab (R) from ssh session with X forwarding doesn't work
  anymore in 17.10

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