Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Man with his Movie Camera

Anyone who has had the unfortunate displeasure of listening to the soundtrack Björk birthed for Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 might have had an understanding of what they were getting themselves into entering the theater for the 2:15 minute extravaganza. Furthermore, someone who sat through Barney's 5 part Cremaster Cycle might have known that, while proceeding through the cycle, Barney's narcissitc showmanship began to take center stage - before the alleged subject. And were one to sit down with Mr. Barney and chat, he could make sense of every moment of Drawing Restraint 9, leaving you only moments later to wonder, 'wait, that really doesn't make any sense at all.' In fact, what we have is a contemporary art world Emporer's New Clothes. His sets and periphanalia are fetishitically beautiful, of that we have not doubt, but Mr. Barney as experimental filmmaker (or, as he prefers, a narrative sculptor), leaves a tad too much to be desired.

Without becoming to personable, I went to CalArts, and though majoring in the Fine Art department, the majority of my labors were spent in the Film school. I have seen more experimental films than I care to admit to. I love them. It is truly my primary passion. There is a delivery that must come in demanding experimental works. It is the moment that hits you like a tidal wave, when suddenly you understand why you have been looking at this one thing for 30-odd minutes. You must experience it in order for this work, at least in my mind, to have value. That moment, however, does not come in Mr. Barney's film.

What then, is Drawing Restrain 9 if not an experimental film? It is a love letter from Matthew Barney and Björk to Matthew Barney and Björk. I would say, without trying to be too snyde, that is the primary purpose for this. They both narcissistically pose and move with a lathargically self-important vigor. The camera, ever present in their performative inneptitude. Both have taken their self-indulgences entirely too far - and what is yeilded, however "avant-garde" people might claim, is absolutely mediocre. Avant Garde is not synonymous with bad. Watching Drawing Restraint 9, I exerienced a similar emotion as the first time I listened to Björk's last proper album(Medúlla): embarasssement. I felt embarrassed that these two potentially talented people (I have been fans of both artists' works in the past) yielded such great works of self-love. Barney (and in a lesser way, Björk as well) has created a formula where, since the work is "experimental, confused people = good art. Not always the case. There is a language to such film, one to which this barely abides.


Blogger neuroglyphix said...

No love for Medúlla? I have to part with you on this. The first time I heard it, (through record store headphones before buying it), I was utterly engaged by its carnal sense of wonder, of its often grotesque expressions of love for the human body. Medúlla, for me, is a masterpiece.

5:32 PM  

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