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. Read More »
CREMASTER 3 (2002) is set in New York City and narrates the construction of the Chrysler Building, which is in itself a character â€“ host to inner, antagonistic forces at play for access to the process of (spiritual) transcendence. These factions find form in the struggle between Hiram Abiff or the Architect (played by Richard Serra), and the Entered Apprentice (played by Barney), who are both working on the building. They are reenacting the Masonic myth of Hiram Abiff, purported architect of Solomonâ€™s Temple, who possessed knowledge of the mysteries of the universe. The murder and resurrection of Abiff are reenacted during Masonic initiation rites as the culmination of a three-part process through which a candidate progresses from the first degree of Entered Apprenticeship to the third of Master Mason. Read More »
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. Read More »
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). Read More »
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. Read More »
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 …
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