...... Matthew Barney - The Cremaster Cycle

.........Guggenheim Museum, February 21-June 11
.........Cathy Lebowitz and Josefina Ayerza

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Cathy Lebowitz: I have a lot of questions about Matthew Barney's Cremaster. Do you have a Lacanian interpretation of the films?

Josefina Ayerza: Not an immediate one. Let's see. The allegory in Cremaster seems to come before the word - like in dreams. Dreams do not exist before you tell the dream... We have though this one word: cremaster. I hear it addresses the muscle which raises and lowers the testicles.

CL: But Lacan theorized the stain in the work of art and the relation between the screen and the viewer. Don't these ideas come into play with Matthew Barney or any visual art work. Most visual art doesn't include words directly. Did Lacan dismiss art (without words directly placed on the screen) as imaginary, as that which does not exist?

JA:: As a work of art Matthew Barney's Cremaster is using the structure of language - it goes over and above the symbolic even if it doesn't do with words. And if this wan't the case like with Robert Gober, for instance, the words on the Pedigree bag instructing you to open it and feed the cat have certainly lost their meaning. However the fact that art is structured doesn't add up to its existence. Art does not exist, what exists are works of art - in that they come forth one by one.

CL: Yes I see. But it is not only the artist that can supply the words. In Lacanian analysis even, the analyst's words are considered fair game for interpretation. So the words I speak about Barney's work could be used as the "dream spoken." He supplies the dreams, I supply the words. Do you agree?

JA: I agree. We pretend you are Matthew Barney, and you had a dream. Tell me...

CL: I was thinking about this scene in Cremaster 3. He gets his teeth knocked out and is put in a dentist chair. The men attach a rubberish sheet to his face leaving his mouth open. quite awful looking his gums exposed. And as they stand around him they look at his genitals; he is naked I think. And his genitals are a bizarrely shaped round thing, which looks like a gas caps on a car, intricate though, like a round seashell with symmetrical horn like forms. It's outside the body like a man but not at all like a penis. Even the men are quite shocked by it, or they are disgusted by it. Then Richard Serra comes in and inserts a metal form in his mouth. This metal form is the result of the resurrected Gary Gilmore's body that has been placed in a car and smashed unrelentingly by 6 cars. Until it is this kernel - it reminded me of Zizek by way of Lacan, the kernel of the real. The thing that is left, the surplus.
Anyway, Serra inserts this thing in Barney's mouth and presses into his exposed tissue, the gums and stuff being held open by the rubber sheet. And as he does this, a soft long sack emerges from Barney's rectum. And from the sack emerges a row of teeth. Teeth like the one's he had knocked out? And pink gooey liquid surrounds it and drips through a crack in the table/chair he is on. The teeth also slide down and they begin to loose their form. And gel together into a long white solid form. It is the strangest thing. The men who are disgusted by the thing coming out of his rectum, eventually leave him alone in the room. And the teeth keep joining into this one tube, or rod. What has passed from the mouth has come out of his ass and reformed into formlessness. They took his teeth so he can be given this metal kernel of the real. This is his passage through a stage of the Masons, from one kind of apprentice to anther higher level.

To be continued [...]


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