Monday, June 27, 2005

Anti-Cinema

I watched a very strange, sometimes beautiful, movie last Saturday. Matthew Barney, the enfant terrible of the modern art scene, has created a series of 5 films, The Cremaster Cycle, in which he explores the concepts of conception, birth, life and death in a very oblique fashion. These films (I've seen two) are not entertainment in almost any sense of the word. The lack of a linear (or even non-linear) plotting and a paucity of exposition, makes viewing this a trying experience. That said, the visuals are always arresting, even stunning. Mr. Barney is concerned with themes of sexual differentiation (or lack thereof), mythology, history and an organic interrelatedness of disparate elements. Tying this together is his visual style, including set, property and costume design. These movies won't make it to the multiplex. They're just too of themselves, they refuse to reach out to an audience at all.
This is not to say they won't have any impact on popular culture. I've already seen television commercials which use his imagery and concepts almost verbatim.

Andy Warhol got a lot of flack in his early career for his then novel approaches to art. His work has been so accepted and integrated into the mainstream culture that it's harldy worth commenting on. Matthew Barney has a way to go to match that, but his fifteen minutes of fame has already been stretched out for a few years. I'm not recommending his work or these films to anyone. But if you want to be challenged in your conception of art, check him out. It looks like the future to me.


By Professor Batty




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