News - 2004
New pics from De Lama Lamina (exhibited at the Frieze Art Fair in London). Click Here
Reuters report on De Lama Lamina’s premier at the Sao Paulo Biennial:
Artist Barney looks to Brazilian gods - Fri 8 October, 2004
By Fernanda Ezabella
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Matthew Barney has choreographed dancing girls, filmed a demolition derby inside the Chrysler Building and dressed up like Harry Houdini all in the name of art.In his latest work, the acclaimed U.S. artist, whose work melds scultpural installations with performance and video, is delving into the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture to expound on his vision of the creative process, the destruction of nature and cycle of life. The 60-minute art film "De Lama Lamina" ("Of Mud a Blade") had its world premiere in Sao Paulo last month, when hundreds of art aficionados descended on the city to attend the opening of the Sao Paulo Bienniale, one of the world's largest international exhibits of contemporary art. Part documentary, part fiction, "De Lama Lamina" captures a float built by Barney for the pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations in Salvador, Bahia, the cultural heart of Brazil's African, slave-descended culture. The float consists of a gigantic, muddied forest tractor carrying an uprooted tree in front of it. Two actors -- one on the tree and another in the tractor -- play deities in the polytheistic Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble. Like his most famous work, a cycle of five films known as the "Cremaster" series, "De Lama Lamina" is a meditation on the creative process, Barney told Reuters in an e-mail interview. "Candomble ... became a catalyst for finding a way to express a faith in the balances in nature ... and through this faith being able to look at the world today without feeling hopeless," he said. Although largely unknown to most people, Barney has received a lot of attention over the last years in art circles for "Cremaster." New York's Guggenheim Museum gave him a retrospective last year and the five "Cremaster" films have been shown around the world. Even before then, though, Barney was making a splash. In 1999, The New York Times called Barney "the most important American artist of his generation." Most recently, the handsome 37-year-old has been in the spotlight for his romantic relationship with Icelandic pop artist Bjork, with whom he has a child.
STRANGE BUT EXHILARATING
After his parents divorced, Barney spent his youth playing high school football in his native Idaho and visiting his mother in New York City, where he was introduced to the world of art. He graduated from Yale University, where he he created some of his early works. Since then, Barney's artk -- part performance, part sculpture and part video -- continues to have very physical, athletic and sexual elements. Indeed, the "Cremaster" films are named after a muscle that raises and lowers testicles depending on temperature, fear or external stimulation. Strange, complex but visually exhilarating, the five films feature Barney in different roles. Together they weave history, autobiography and mythology into a dream-like reflection on gender, ritual, power, creation, and a myriad of other grand themes, according to art critics. Two years after the completion of the "Cremaster" series, Barney unveiled "De Lama Lamina." "Since he announced the end of the Cremaster cycle, I think a lot of people were waiting to see what he would do next," said Sergio Romagnolo, an artist and Barney fan. The new film depicts the clash between nature and technology through two "orixas," or deities, in Candomble. Barney's idea for "De Lama Lamina" began six years ago when the artist attended Carnival and decided he wanted to film something with a live audience, in contrast to the meticulously planned "Cremaster" movies, which took 10 years to make. Atop Barney's 20-foot (6-m) tree a woman represents both Ossain, a Candomble orixa tied to plants and medicine, and Julia Butterfly Hill, an activist who lived two years on top of a California Redwood tree to stop it from being cut down. Down in the tractor's machinery, Ogun, the deity of iron, engages in a Vaseline-greased ritual with machines that was not visible to Carnival onlookers but captured in the film. At one point he looks like he is trying to copulate with the tractor. "Ossain is in contact with the forest, and Ogun is who takes the forest away on the way to create civilization," Barney said. "The contract between them has the same kind of duality that any orixa has, to destroy and create." The tractor pulled a wagon of dirt atop which a musical band led by experimental musician Arto Lindsay played music. The whole endeavor is a twist on the typical "trio electricos," or moving sound stages, that snake down Salvador's winding streets during Carnival. Ivo Mesquita, the exhibit's curator, said the film marked a new step for Barney. "He's fusing documentary-style language, which he used in his first performances, with the fictional kind we've seen in films like Cremaster," Mesquita said. "It is very exciting to be able to see this work."
Pics from De Lama Lamina. Click Here
De Lama Lamina will premier this month at Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil. The film will be screened at the Pinoteca do Estado. The director of the Biennial had originally planned to display the forestry truck that pulled the float in the Carnival parade, but the truck prooved too heavy for the floors of the exhibition hall.
The May issue of Artforum has a 1-page essay in which Barney discusses his new project De Lama Lamina. Click Here to see pics of the parade.
Matthew Barney recently filmed a performance called De Lama Lamina (FromMud, a Blade) during Carnival in Salvador de Bahia, a city about 750 miles Northeast of Rio de Janeiro. The project is a collaboration with American-Brazillian musician Arto Lindsay (a longtime friend of Barney’s).
Barney constructed a large float in the shape of an enormous deforesting truck with 6-foot tires. The truck clutches a large, uprooted tree. The interior of the tree is made from white plastic, and synthetic sap trickles from a slit in the bark, forming the seven tools of Ogun (the god of war in the Candomble religion). The float, flanked by 30 drummers and 1,000 dancers in Tvek costumes (laser cut to mimic tree bark), marched with the Cortejo Afro bloco in Salvador’s Carnival parade. Lindsay’s band performed on a logging trailer pulled behind the truck -- a 15-foot high cast cross-section of earth showing evidence of roots and cultural debris.
A female actress wearing a costume made entirely of synthetic materials portrayed Julia Butterfly Hill, the activist who lived for two years in a 200-foot Great Redwood tree in California to prevent the tree from being cut down. Julia Hill climbed among the branches of the tree as the logging truck drove along the parade route.
The main character of De Lama Lamina is the Greenman. In the parade, roots extended from his mouth and anus (in the filmed version, they will eventually bloom). The Greenman is a “large-machinery fetishist” and rode in a tinted-glass compartment mounted under the logging truck. As the truck drove, he masturbated continuously against the drive shaft, climaxing multiple times. In the film, he will interact with an animatronic Golden Lion Tamarin (an endangered monkey native to the area whose feces is used in the production of some antibiotics), using its excrement to lubricae the drive shaft.
Click Here to read the advertisement used to hire an adult film actor to play the Greenman (includes a synopsis of De Lama Lamina).
In addition to filming the float in the Carnival parade, Barney’s crew spent additional time filming scenes in the glass compartment. Besides to the obvious references to the ecological destruction of the rainforest and Candomble religion, Barney mentions the theories of Nobel Chemist Ilya Prigogine about the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which states that the world will eventually die and decay) when discussing this project. Prigogine believed that under certain circumstances the Second Law fails, energy increases, and an organism is able to transcend itsself and evolve into a higher form. No word yet on when the film will be released.