Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Barney at SFMOMA

In one of the many memorable images from Matthew Barney's magnum opus, an oyster diver opens her mouth as if to breathe, and pearls, numerous pearls, spill freely from tongue back to sea. There is little subtlety to Barney's work: he emphasizes and explores his theory of "restraint" by posing its opposite in viscerally evocative ways. From the collapse of solidifying petroleum on the ship's deck to the retching and spewings of a boy in the infirmary, Drawing Restraint is one long advertisement for entropy. In what leads to the film's climax, a couple (Barney and Björk wrapped as carefully and as beautifully as precious gift packages) begin cutting away all superficial restraints, freeing themselves from ritual and ceremony, clothing and adornment, flesh and desire. The themes, as I reflect on them two weeks after seeing the film, are good, solid, themes-for-all-time-themes, but they are nothing revelatory, and I have to question devoting an entire floor of a museum to what is little more than props and still photos from the film.

I have to question describing Barney's work as a Gesamtkunstwerk.

more soon...


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