The Genius of Matthew Barney

I was intrigued by a review in the Los Angeles TImes of Matthew Barney’s latest performance piece, called REN.   The two hour event took place in a car lot, and featured the destruction of a 1967 Chrysler Imperial.

The car was dragged by “four dozen dirt-smeared laborers” into a showroom, where it was smashed by a backhoe. The shattered glass injured three people in the audience, but hey, they came to see Art and they got it!

After the paramedics left, the audience was ushered into a fake tomb where Lila Downs sang to a corpse and – this is my favorite part – “a menstrual shroud was extracted from the loins of a masked nude woman.”

Is Matthew Barney a fucking genius or what?!

If you’re not convinced, how about this: Just last month in New York, Barney used another Chrysler to fascinate a crowd of 200, wearing a dog on his head. A legless athlete in a silver ballgown and a marching band in terrorist masks were there to bring Barney’s vision to life, as were a pair of semi-nude girls who peed in an arc onto the floor. Then a bull was led over to the Chrysler but refused to mount it.

I’m not too good as symbolism, but I think it’s obvious that the bull was a witty reference to shit. Right?

Poor Bjork!

This entry was posted in Art, Horrible Stuff, Rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Genius of Matthew Barney

  1. Tobi Lynne says:

    wow. I’m speechless.

  2. Lady K says:

    I know this is not the correct place for this, however, can somebody tell me how I sign up for the blogs to be sent automatically to my email address.

    Apologies for placing this here, thanks. K

  3. Accurupture says:

    I was there last Sunday and it was great, I totally disagree with the silly LA Times reviewer. This was the best arts performance I’ve experienced in a long time, Barney made a true opera with a prologue and 3 acts, using Norman Mailer’s ‘Ancient Evenings’ and the All American Chrysler myth as source material. The show IMHO had nothing to do with the war in Iraq, and was also much less about Barney himself than previous works I guess… There was a golden Pontiac Firebird Trans Am as ugly ducklin or bad spirit that got chased, and a huge shredder that ripped Barney’s Chrysler Imperial to pieces (the minor injuries to 3 members of the audience were unintentional as the shredder pushed its leveller leg accidentally through the showroom window when we were all looking at its devastating work from outside).

    This was like a Cremaster episod performed live, and for most of those previliged enough to witness it, it was no doubt an impressive evening !

    I’m glad I was there…

  4. enc says:

    Call me monkey meat, but I’ve never “understood” performance art, even when it’s been explained to me by the “artist.”

  5. enc says:

    Lady K, you can sign up for Google Reader and subscribe to “Godamit.” That’s what I did!

  6. MaRK says:

    I don’t care what he does, he’s yummy.

  7. Sister Wolf says:

    Accurupture, are you being satirical? If you got through Mailer’s Ancient Evenings, you are impervious to pain.

    Lady K, thank you for liking! There’s a thingy at the bottom of the page where you can sign up for notices, but that’s all I know about tech stuff.

    Mark, please, he isn’t yummy one bit.

  8. Lady K says:

    enc – thanks for the tip, have done so and also added your blog too!

  9. Accurupture says:

    no satire here Sister Wolf. Me to I don’t think he’s yummy, and I’m rather critical of muh of M.B.’s work but this was a highlight.

    Somewhat surprised only a local newspaper and your blog have any info about the show, perhaps M.B.’s gallery is adding to the myth by keeping low profile about what was by all accounts a major production. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the rest of my life I’ll meet over 800 people who will claim to be among the 400 people who saw this.

  10. Zarka says:

    I was there too, and I am disappointed that no one has yet commented on the contents of the giant sphere being towed behind the car. It was full of that blue water that they put in porta johns, and several dozen floating brown lumps of fake poo. I was astonished at the number of people that walked through the piss and shit water in sandals and flip flops (the awfully derivative speech at the beginning was about how we’re all just shit and will become shit, also not mentioned in the LA Times piece). FLIP FLOPS through a wet room full of shredded metal and plastic! We were told to wear sturdy shoes in the invitation.

    I was also disappointed that little was mentioned about the roach coaches and the horrid state of the real porta johns. I think that the audience was very much part of the performance in this piece. The toilets were all filled with paper so as to be nearly unusable, and I think this was intended. Either that, or this was the most inept crowd at using porta johns in the world.

    As the “slaves” pulled the car while dozens of onlookers stared, I felt the strongest urge to help, and wondered if my emotional reaction to watching slave labor wasn’t also intended as part of the performance: it was hot and nasty, and these guys were working hard, and here we all were standing around watching them work. I wanted to just say “Hey everybody, they need help, let’s get in there and help them out!”

    When the mechanic (Barney?) pulled the plastic shroud out of the woman’s ass, that was precious.

  11. Zarka says:

    One other thing, I think the people standing on cars to get a better view was also one of those things that was intended by the artists, as there were boxes available to help people step up onto the trunks, giving me an even stronger feeling that the audience was a very important part of the performance, passively watching others do work, actively helping the world go to shit.

    The only active things the audience did were eat (roach coaches, remember?), shit, watch the spectacle of ‘slave’ labor and stand on cars, crumpling their roofs. In summary, all the people did was participate in processes of decay, which was the major theme stated at the beginning. Having us walk through piss and shit (though fake) was, I think, a statement about how we actively degrade ourselves.

  12. jackson says:

    the sphere was a septic tank attached the the porta-potty shoved into the back of the imperial

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    Jesus H. Christ.

    Okay, Accurupture. I plan to say I was there too, if anyone ever asks.

    Zarka, I believe you are not making this up. In which case, I give myself a nice round of applause for intuiting that the ‘piece’ was about shit. This in turn reminds me of The Magic Christian by the great Terry Southern.

    The part about provoking the audience reminds me of the movie “Hi Mom”, in which a theater group of African Americans gets some white people to submit to emotional abuse, in the name of Art.

    MB is clearly a huckster to be respected on that basis. If he is an artist, I have some menstrual shrouds to sell to him.

  14. Accurupture says:

    Thanks Zarka for filling the gaps… We had the impression that MB in fact had replaced the blue chemicals normally used in these portacabin toilets with something like Lucozade or another blue soft drink (we had dinner at the Pollo Loco oposite the place of action and their blue drink smelled just as horrible: The smell of burned car parts + crashed septic tank upon re-entering the showroom was nasty.)
    A good description of the evening can be found on
    For those lucky enough to have seen ‘Guardian of the Veil’ the precursor to this series, either at the NY try-out or in the Manchester Festival as part of ‘Il Tempo del Postino’, there were many obvious links.
    The number of people claiming to have been at both performances is said to be on the rise too. Sister Wolf, grab your chance.

  15. Miembroman says:

    Fake poo? But the poo wasn’t fake!

  16. GHD Sale says:

    Thought I’d comment and say cool theme, did you build it on your own? It really is really really superior!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *