Tomorrow marks the first day of San Francisco born artist, Matthew Barney’s Norwegian debut premiere of River of Fundament–his collaboration with composer Jonathan Bepler. The project is a five-and-a-half-hour film originating from one-time-only live operas and based on Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel Ancient Evenings, which is set in pharaonic Egypt. It will be shown as part of Astrup Fearnley Museet’s solo show of the artist’s work Bildungsroman.
Filmed in a reconstruction of Mailer’s Brooklyn Heights apartment, a stream of faeces runs through the building’s foundations–this is Matthew Barney after all–while the artist tackles two parallel yet intertwining narratives. Mailer stars as the protagonist in a dystopian journey of continuous reincarnation; to rebirth he must endure the seven mythological states of his soul in which he plants himself in his wife’s womb. We bare witness to an incestual dominance struggle between Egyptian Gods and Demigods, the de-gutting of a cow and the body of Mailer transforming into three different cars. Again, pretty damn Barney. His quote ‘my work’s not for everyone’ rings true for this film, five out of the fifty press left within an hour of its first showing.
The metamorphosis of the cars are central to the exhibition of over fifty sculptures, Barney uses zinc, sulfur, iron and copper in the melting and re-making of the automobiles to portray the ascent of power. For this show Barney has woven a new layout, his sculptures and drawings are the origin of his artwork and will be placed alongside some of his older work. The narrative of this space will be guided from Transexualis (1991)–a sculpture that includes petroleum jelly in a walk-in cooler–through to The Cremaster Cycle (1994-2002)–an mix of artistic mediums that span over eight years–finally to River of Fundament (2014).
As with the majority of Barney’s exhibitions, this is one of great avant-garde value with hard-hitting imagery–in particular, human bodily functions.
‘Matthew Barney: Bildungsroman’ will be showing at Astrup Fearnley Museet until 15 May