Drawing Restraint 9, a film by Matthew Barney with a soundtrack composed by Björk, represents the first creative collaboration of two of the most protean, dynamic forces in music and fine art.
It is an apt pairing. Refusing to choose between pop pleasure and restless experimentation, Björk’s musical vision weds technology and emotion, countering gut-level expression with an insistence upon formal modernity and innovation.
Similarly poised, and celebrated, within the world of contemporary art as Björk is within her own field, Matthew Barney is a visual artist whose ambitious, rigorous multimedia work encodes esoteric meanings while providing lushly immediate aesthetic rewards. Best known for The Cremaster Cycle, the sprawling sequence of five films made over ten years which was the subject of a recent Guggenheim retrospective, Matthew Barney’s work is multimedia in execution but singularly focused in conception: tightly unified fusions of sculpture, performance, architecture, set design, music, computer generated effects and prosthetics, Barney’s films deploy the full range of cinematic resources in the service of a hermetic vision rich with densely layered networks of meaning drawn from mythology, history, sports, music, and biology. Continue reading
part of a modern art classic
Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
20 March 2004
The Cremaster Cycle 9/10 The Cremaster Cycle is a series of five films shot over eight years. Although they can be seen individually, the best experience is seeing them all together (like Wagner’s Ring Cycle) – and also researching as much as you can beforehand. To give you an idea of the magnitude, it has been suggested that their fulfilment confirms creator Matthew Barney as the most important American artist of his generation (New York Times Magazine).
The Cremaster films are works of art in the sense that the critical faculties you use whilst watching them are ones you might more normally use in, say, the Tate Modern, than in an art house cinema. They are entirely made up of symbols, have only the slimmest of linear plots, and experiencing them leaves you with a sense of awe, of more questions and inspirations than closed-book answers. The imagery is at once grotesque, beautiful, challenging, puzzling and stupendous. Any review can only hope to touch on the significance of such an event, but a few clues might be of interest, so for what it’s worth …
Cremaster 4 adheres most closely to the project’s biological model. This penultimate episode describes the system’s onward rush toward descension despite its resistance to division. The logo for this chapter is the Manx triskelion – three identical armored legs revolving around a central axis. Set on the Isle of Man, the film absorbs the island’s folklore as well as its more recent incarnation as host to the Tourist Trophy motorcycle race. Myth and machine combine to narrate a story of candidacy, which involves a trial of the will articulated by a series of passages and transformations. The film comprises three main character zones. The Loughton Candidate (played by Barney) is a satyr with two sets of impacted sockets in his head – four nascent horns, which will eventually grow into those of the mature, Loughton Ram, an ancient breed native to the island. Its horns – two arcing upward, two down – form a diagram that proposes a condition of undifferentiation, with ascension and descension coexisting in equilibrium. The second and third character zones comprise a pair of motorcycle sidecar teams: the Ascending and Descending Hacks. These primary characters are attended to by a trio of fairies who mirror the three narrative fields occupied by the Candidate and the two racing teams. Having no volition of their own, these creatures metamorphose in accordance with whatever field they occupy at any given time.
The third film of a five-part art-installation epic — it’s part-zombie movie, part-gangster film.
“All that the world most needs today is combined in the most seductive way in his art-the three great stimulants of exhausted people: brutality, artificiality, and innocence….”
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner (1895) Continue reading
CREMASTER 2 is rendered as a gothic Western that introduces conflict into the system. On the biological level it corresponds to the phase of fetal development during which sexual division begins. In Matthew Barney’s abstraction of this process, the system resists partition and tries to remain in the state of equilibrium imagined in Cremaster 1. Cremaster 2 embodies this regressive impulse through its looping narrative, moving from 1977, the year of Gary Gilmore’s execution, to 1893, when Harry Houdini, who may have been Gilmore’s grandfather, performed at the World’s Columbian Exposition. The film is structured around three interrelated themes – the landscape as witness, the story of Gilmore (played by Barney), and the life of bees – that metaphorically describe the potential of moving backward in order to escape one’s destiny. Both Gilmore’s kinship to Houdini (played by Norman Mailer) and his correlation with the male bee are established in the séance/conception scene in the beginning of the film, during which Houdini’s spirit is summoned and Gilmore’s father expires after fertilizing his wife. Gilmore’s sense of his own doomed role as drone is expressed in the ensuing sequence in a recording studio where Dave Lombardo, former drummer of Slayer, is playing a solo to the sound of swarming bees. A man shrouded by bees with the voice of Steve Tucker, lead vocalist of Morbid Angel, growls into a telephone. Collectively these figures allude to Johnny Cash, who is said to have called Gilmore on the night of his execution in response to the convict’s dying wish.
Synopsis: from link
Cremaster 1 is a musical revue performed on the blue Astroturf playing field of Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho – Barney’s hometown. Two Goodyear Blimps float above the arena like the airships that often transmit live sporting events via television broadcast. Four air hostesses tend to each blimp. The only sound is soft ambient music, which suggests the hum of the engines. In the middle of each cabin interior sits a white-clothed table, it’s top decorated with an abstract centerpiece sculpted from Vaseline and surrounded by clusters of grapes. In one blimp the grapes are green, in the other they are purple. Under both of these otherwise identical tables resides Goodyear (played by Marti Domination). Inhabiting both blimps simultaneously, this doubled creature sets the narrative in motion. After prying an opening in the tablecloth(s) above her head, she plucks grapes from their stems and pulls them down into her cell. With these grapes, Goodyear produces diagrams that direct the choreographic patterns created by a troupe of dancing girls on the field below. The camera switches back and forth between Goodyear’s drawings and aerial views of the chorus girls moving into formation: their designs shift from parallel lines to the figure of a barbell, from a large circle to an outline of splitting and multiplying cells, and from a horizontally divided field emblem (Barney’s signature motif) to a rendering of an undifferentiated reproductive system (which marks the first six weeks of fetal development). Gliding in time to the musical score, the chorus girls delineate the contours of a still-androgynous gonadal structure, which echoes the shapes of the two blimps overhead, and symbolizes a state of pure potential. Continue reading