Archives for posts with tag: Matthew Barney

HD 70642 is a star about 95 light years away. It has roughly the same mass and radius as our sun. It has a companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit in our solar system. Waves like FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first radio and TV signals from Earth will be reaching this solar system about now.

Family photo 1930 Kessingland Beach. It has taken almost the equivalent of my Mother’s lifetime for the early transmissions to reach this potential home from home.

Work in progress.

The work is based on the raster patterns of the first TV signals when images were transmitted in a series of lines. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, one line at a time. It is similar to how one’s gaze travels when one reads lines of text. The word raster comes from the Latin rastrum, meaning rake. Patterns of line. The signal is sent in fragments and must be interpreted on arrival to make sense of the message.

Also working on a short video – Cosmic Chiasmus, looking at the journey of cosmic rays from distant galaxies to our planet. Chiasmus comes from Greek meaning crossing, like in the letter X.

Cosmic rays, some travelling from other galaxies, pass through us and our world continuously, creating an almost tangible contact with outer space.

Some super high energy cosmic ray particles that arrive on Earth have 20 million times more energy than particle colliders can generate. They may come from distant galaxies or be created by phenomena that we are yet to discover.

They may come from other dimensions.

First line of defence on Earth against the ionising radiation of high energy cosmic rays is our magnetic field which deflects many charged particles before they reach our atmosphere. Second line of defence against cosmic rays is Earth’s atmosphere. Most high energy particles that make it past the magnetic field collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere and break apart to create a cascade of secondary particles that shower down upon us. In losing some of their energy as they smash apart they are less dangerous.

I have a very short film Big Bang to be featured in the 2021 Birkenhead International Film Festival of films 30 seconds or less.

The scales of the universe are hard to comprehend and this 12 second video is an attempt to relate this unfathomability to the human experience. Each second of the video is comprised of 24 single frame extracts from 24 separate videos of the moment a soap film membrane burst. Too fast for our eyes to see, we cannot register the individual frame or the instant the bubble bursts. This is nothing compared to the speed at which the Big Bang exploded matter across the universe or the magnitude of time that has passed since that event. As scientists use ever more sensitive instruments of measurement we must try and grapple with concepts that our limited senses have no hope of experiencing directly.

According to theoretical physics higher dimensions exist where space acts very like a soap film membrane in trying to minimize surface area. String theory, which attempts to combine quantum mechanics with general relativity potentially allows for many universes each with different physical laws.. It may be possible for our universe to suddenly transform into a universe with completely different properties. If this did happen, it would thankfully be so fast we would be oblivious to the moment of transition.

Out of the studio. Wonderful to be able to visit exhibitions again.

Matthew Barney Redoubt at Hayward Gallery

Incredible, stunningly beautiful and riveting film full of mythology ritual and alchemy that spills over into the gallery.

Igshaan Adams Kicking Dust also at Hayward Gallery

Dust clouds and desire lines. Leaving the dark and snow laden forest in the upper gallery for hazy sandy plains.

A rather lovely lump of creamy smooth marble from Not Vital at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery.

Robert Rauschenberg Night Shades and Phantoms also at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery. Slippery surfaces. We are the phantoms.

Rachel Whiteread Internal Objects at Gagosian. A different sort of negative. All in the detail.

Stephen Friedman Gallery at the London House of Modernity Quite splendid.

Jaki Irvine Ack Ro’ installation at Frith Street Gallery Bathing in pink neon song and sounds, gentle breezes and dappled light.

Tuned in to the webinar Art in Flux: The Invisible In collaboration with National Gallery X | Curated by Olive Gingrich

In a time, when there are nearly as many pieces of digital information as there are stars in the universe, contemporary artists explore new forms of making this vast amount of information accessible – be it through visual interpretations or new forms of interactivity. While museums around the globe including The National Gallery revisit their collections through the prism of data, contemporary artists such as Refik Anadol, Marshmallow Laser Feast and the Analema Group develop new processes for audiences to experience invisible phenomena in all new ways.

Ben Judd ‘The Origin‘ beautiful exhibition at Stanley Picker Gallery looking at island communities.

Who gets more visceral than Matthew Barney.

Matthew Barney 'Cremaster'

Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’

I went to hear him in conversation with Jonathan Bepler. Together they are developing a new film project ‘River of Fundament’.

River of Fundament

River of Fundament

The starting point for this project is Norman Mailers 1983 novel ‘Ancient Evenings’ which tells stories of reincarnation, mythology, violent and hyper sexual gods from the age of the pharaohs in Egypt. I haven’t read this book but it is described by readers as anything from a literary masterpiece of astounding brilliance, the greatest gay love story ever told though to disgusting grotesque violence and simply masturbating shit onto the page.

Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto, 2009, Ink, graphite and gold leaf on paperback copy of Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, on carved salt base

Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto, 2009, Ink, graphite and gold leaf on paperback copy of Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, on carved salt base

Matthew Barney always appears so serious and deliberating. He doesn’t give the impression that the work he will produce will be messy and sticky and barely possible to look at.
Unphased by a question from the audience about his feelings regarding an afterlife he replied in the same thoughtful manner giving respect to an off the wall interjection from someone recently bereaved.
We were shown unedited film excerpts from the work so far. They get under your skin.
There is beauty and majesty in shots filmed at a steel foundry and there are the basest bodily functions performed as ritual celebrations. It is operatic in conception and mixes the filming of live performance with more choreographed staging a scene to be filmed.
His response to why he chose such a character as Norman Mailer as inspiration is that he prefers to work with a subject that repels as well as attracts him.
He believes this dichotomy of feelings gives his work an edge, a challenge – like the artist Andrew Salgado explained when asked why he chose to paint a serial killer.
Don’t make it easy.
Those feelings are translated in to the work and the audience becomes challenged too.

Matthew Barney 'Cremaster'

Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’

The definition of visceral – relating to deep inner feelings rather than the intellect.
So a deep spiritual experience could be visceral but not unsettling.
I think ‘River of Fundament’ will be intellectually challenging and visceral and quite unsettling.
There will also be moments of wonder that will be the reward for having to watch some of it squinting through your fingers.

Also as part of The Manchester International Festival was a Tino Sehgal performance piece ‘This Variation’ which tapped into the visceral.

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

Directed into a dark space of the Mayfield Depot the first reaction is to reach out – when these tentative approaches touch another body the reaction is to pull back.
The lighting level is so low that on entering the space the new participant is blind. In the space are an unknown number of performers beat boxing, singing, or calling out questions.
In the pitch black I decided the best policy was to remain immobile. Voices chanted and bodies began to move, dancing and stamping and sweeping past so close the air was alive, brushing my body so close while I stood, not believing they could see me, waiting for a major impact. I imagined I had been captured in the forest and was at the mercy of a wild and uncontrolled people, unable to escape. It went on long enough to worry how I would ever get out but eventually my eyes or the light levels adjusted and I was able to witness more people stumbling into the space before I left feeling I had truly been transported elsewhere.

In Venice at the Biennale there were more artists who delivered work that also had a visceral impact.
The most unsettling was perhaps at the pavilion of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva was ‘exploring the effects of the silk route and how mobility can spread disease as well as commerce.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva  'Silentio Pathologia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

A route through the pavilion was mapped out in curtains made from the flayed skins of albino rats and the woven cocoons of silk worms.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva 'Silentio Patho;ogia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

It was the smell that was most powerful and also the sight of some live rats in wire cages trapped amid the stench of the death of their own kind.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva 'Silentio Patho;ogia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

Another but very different bodily impact came from Poland.

Konrad Smolenski created a sound installation which was so loud as to be unbearable to approach.

Konrad Smolenski 'Everything was forever, Until it was no more'

Konrad Smolenski ‘Everything was forever, Until it was no more’

Kimsooja in the Korean Pavilion also plunged the visitors into darkness but it was not a threatening space, aware of the other people who had entered the small space alongside you by number system it was not isolated or long enough to develop any real sense of displacement.

Korean Pavilion

Korean Pavilion

The entrance however was a more alarming experience, supposedly a kaleidoscopic light diffraction experience it was in fact an embarrassing realisation that the mirror flooring showed right up your skirt.

Petrit Halilaj for Kosovo used memory to dig into the psyche of everyone who grew up able to dig and play in the soil.

Petrit Halilaj

Petrit Halilaj

He created an earth tunnel inspired by memories of a rural childhood before displacement, destruction and exodus reshaped his world.

Petrit Halilaj

Petrit Halilaj

Able to enter this dark space sprouting with twigs and roots like the lair of some large beast I was glad to exit without encountering some living thing to make me shriek.

I might have had a rural childhood too but now I am firmly urban and terrified of those tiny creatures that inhabit the wild.

Ali Kazma for Turkey explored the reactions we have to our own body in his video installation ‘Resistance’.

Ali Kazma 'Resistance'

Ali Kazma ‘Resistance’

A line of body builders flex their muscles on the giant screen; a group of young girls in the audience squirm in disgust.

Ali Kazma 'Resistence'

Ali Kazma ‘Resistence’

Not sure how I would bring these sorts of feelings into my own work but it is an interesting exercise to think about.

These feelings which are so fundamental, so deep within that to stir them is to feel alive, be conscious of mortality.

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work in progress