Thursday, March 04, 2004

Cremaster Cycle

I went to the Guggenheim to see Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle exhibition at the Guggenheim last year. This is what I wrote about it then:

I watched parts 2-5 of the Cremaster series. Now I need to see part one (because I arrived too late).

I was absolutely floored by the series. Absolutely amazing. He forced me to question and examine every relationship I encountered: wet/dry, good/evil, penis/vagina, order/disorder, short/tall, soft/hard, right/wrong, the dynamics of sexual intercourse, consumption of food, comfort, death were all skewed in such a way to be downright uncomfortable.

Part 2 is a Western and was the most disturbing of the pieces I watched as it included the Gary Gilmore story and lots of imagery about prisons and death; but also included gorgeously incongruous footage of the Canadian wilderness. It made me uneasy, but it was beautifully done. Barney played Gilmore and Norman Mailer (I am no fan) played Harry Houdini, who is alleged to be Gilmore's grandfather (in real life, not in the film).

Part 3 (the most recent release) really should have been two movies. The first half is about the creation of the Chrysler Building and uses images of food, violence, Masonic cults, automobiles, sex, alcohol, crime and human relations. The finale of the first half includes amazing footage of the tower's spire being wrapped in ribbon (and, of course, a mandatory murder). The second half is a sort of celebration of the Cremaster cycle I would call Guggenheim-A-Go-Go. Each level of the Guggenheim museum was turned into a fantastic level of stimulation. The first level was a bubble bath of beautiful woman moving up to The Rockettes tapping and dancing, then to a rock 'n roll shootout between punk bands Murphy's Law and Agnostic Front, next was a sensual (then violent) display between the protagonist and Aimee Mullins, the legless beauty who transforms into a leopard for the not-so-nice sequence between them, moving on to a plastic sculpture of fellowship completed by Barney by tossing pieces in the air and hoping they land properly, then finally to a scene of sculpture Richard Serra throwing melted paraffin or petroleum jelly against the wall at the top of the museums ramping galleries so that it then flowed down the length of the museum.

All of these scenes are successfully installed in the main gallery now while the films play in the theater.

Part three was three hours long and clearly delineated between the Chrysler Building and the museum. It was almost perfectly executed with only two or three continuity errors (shortcomings?) in the entire piece. Not bad for three hours!

Part 4 is the weakest of the series. It was made first and the idea was clearly still germinating. Technologically it is uncomfortable, but the creative force shines through in spite of the technology. The protagonist satyr is a wonder to look at, and the Isle of Man is a beautiful site, but the incongruity of the racing sidecars made me fidget in my seat too much. So, it is successful.

Part 5 is an opera that completes the creative cycle of ascension to descension. It is beautifully filmed in the Budapest opera house, is easy to watch and wonderfully acted. Ursulla Andress plays the Queen. I love her because she is part of so many adolescent 'happy memories'!

Half of Cremaster 3 is now available on DVD. I wish the series could be purchased on DVD or VHS. I would love to own them. I saw DVDs on display in the galleries, but they are not for sale. I got the book.

If you can see it, do it!



The Guggenheim

Cremaster at The Gugg