Matthew Barney "River of Fundament" Sculptures

In London this month I saw the Matthew Barney exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ. The sculptures were made during his last art film “River of Fundament”. Pivotal to the story of the film are the melting down of automobiles through a ritualized scenario into a site-specific foundry that casts these and other more massively scaled sculptures. A few props used in the foundry scenes in the film are reinvented as artifact-like sculptures enclosed in vitrines made from solid cast metal. At Sadie Coles, the grey-card coloured walls set off the matte lead and zinc materials and are a counterpoint to the gold-plated details on several sculptures. Away from the non-linear narrative context of the six hour long film, the sculptures still hold a primal, dystopian, and cathartic quality. The large artwork shaped like the molten frame of an automobile looks equally like some kind of royal bed from ceremonial chambers or an alien coral reef. The works shown at Sadie Coles HQ appear to also be the smaller of the sculptures created during filming. I’m interested in the sculptures as artifacts of the film (like props) and of the ritualized artifact or artmaking that was scripted into the film. The sculptures stand on their own, as most likely does the film. Independently the speak to the themes in the work. I’m also interested in using objects from film making as art objects in their own right. Converting active props or out-of-date artifacts into something that continues beyond their use use to carry narrative.

Ideas that are relevant for my own practice are the “meta” aspects of Barney’s universe (his productions and outputs seem too small to label merely as a “practice”). The creation of artworks during a performance which is scripted and cast and filmed. The film is an artwork, the props and works created during the film are both a related and stand-alone body of work, and the film itself is an “art work”. In business we would call this a “vertical integration” , where the artist’/business owns the entire flow of production from raw material, transportation, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and sales.

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