A sculptor, visual artist, film-maker and performer, ex-athlete and ex-model, Matthew Barney
(b. 1967) is one of the most adventurous and celebrated figures in contemporary art. River of Fundament
, which he is presenting at the OCC as part of a world tour, is an unprecedented happening--a ravishingly beautiful, satanically alluring amalgam of film and theatre whose 350 minutes took seven years to complete. It is not just an avant-garde film or video-art; it's a hybrid multimedia visual/sculptural monument which adheres to the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk total-art-work tradition in its combination of opera, theatre, performance and the plastic arts.
The work is inspired by Norman Mailer
's controversial novel, Ancient Evenings
(1983), an interweaving of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and sexuality, reincarnation and eroticism. Barney and his long-term collaborator, the American composer Jonathan Bepler
, rework Mailer's material with the same unbridled freedom they brought to their celebrated The Cremaster Cycle
(1994-2002). Their starting point is the wake of Norman Mailer as the crème de la crème of New York pass through the writer's home to pay their respects: his son, John Buffalo Mailer (as a reincarnation of his father); the authors Salman Rushdie, Fran Lebowitz and Jeffrey Eugenides; the singer Debbie Harry; the director Jonas Mekas; the actors Ellen Burstyn, Elaine Stritch, Paul Giamatti and Maggy Gyllenhaal; the pornstar Bobbi Starr; the paralympian (and model) Aimee Mullins; the 94 year-old chief of the native American Lakota tribe, and hundreds of figures from the pantheon of contemporary American myth. The Eighteenth Pharaonic Dynasty is tangled up with the rise and fall of the American car industry, parallels are drawn between the human body and disassembled Pontiacs, souls pass through rivers of filth and vast boulevards, and mortals and immortals are initiated into orgiastic rites of excrement and sodomy en route to achieving the ultimate state of ecstasy: the prospect of eternal rebirth.
RIVER OF FUNDAMENT
A film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler
Written and directed by Matthew Barney
Music composed and directed by Jonathan Bepler
Production: Matthew Barney and the Laurenz Foundation
In English with Greek subtitles.
River of Fundament
Subtitles translation: Vassilis Douvitsas
is being screened around the world by the Manchester International Festival on behalf of the artists.
World premiere: BAM, New York, February 2014