Matthew Barney: River of Fundament

Exhibition 17.03 – 17.08.14

Since 2007, artist Matthew Barney has been developing "River of Fundament" in collaboration with the composer Jonathan Bepler. The Gesamtkunstwerk is inspired by American author Norman Mailer and his sprawling, controversial novel "Ancient Evenings", published in 1983. The project comprises the epic-length symphonic film "River of Fundament", three performances, 14 large-scale sculptures weighing up to 25 tons, drawings, photographs, storyboards, and vitrines. In its entirety, the project is one of the artist's most complex and ambitious works to date. 

"River of Fundament" represents the culmination of seven years of intense meditation on death, rebirth, transformation and transcendence. Mailer's novel depicts the spiritual path of the Egyptian Menenhetet I through three deaths and rebirths. Barney replaces the man's soul with the automobile and reincarnation with recycling: "Ren," the project's first act, documents a live performance in a car dealership in Los Angeles in 2008, where the car – the 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperial from "Cremaster 3" – undergoes its first death. The second act, "Khu", which is also the second part of the film opera, is set in Detroit and brings the Chrysler back to its birthplace, reincarnated as a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In "Ba", the automobile's soul travels to New York, where the myth materializes as a sculpture.  

With this project's sculptures, Barney has moved away from his signature materials: Instead of thermal plastic and petroleum jelly, iron, bronze, sulfur and salt refer to Egyptian mythology. The central question is if there is a coherent identity, a spiritual property retaining a person's particular characteristics not just throughout life, but surviving physical death. The sculpture "Djed" at the center of the exhibition was cast during a live performance "Khu". For this work – witnessed by a live audience – 25 tons of molten iron were poured over the chassis of the Chrysler. The work shares a formal similarity with the Djed pillar, the Egyptian hieroglyph representing eternity and stability and that was later absorbed into the cult of Osiris, the god of death and fertility. Other sculptures and their complex production process were part of the live performances and thus are part of the film "River of Fundament." The new drawings, photographs, storyboards, and vitrines intricately map the character and thematic development of the project.

"Matthew Barney: River of Fundament" is curated by Okwui Enwezor and organized by Haus der Kunst in collaboration with the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania, Australia. Generous support has been provided by Laurenz Foundation, Schaulager Basel; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

 

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Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Ivano Grasso © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Ivano Grasso © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Kelly Thomas © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Kelly Thomas © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Kelly Thomas © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Kelly Thomas © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney, Canopic Chest, 2011, Laurenz-Stiftung © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Canopic Chest, 2011, Laurenz-Stiftung © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Secret Name, 2011 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Secret Name, 2011 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, DJED, 2011, Laurenz-Stiftung, Schaulager Basel © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, DJED, 2011, Laurenz-Stiftung, Schaulager Basel © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings, REN Libretto, 2009 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings, REN Libretto, 2009 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Imperal Mask, 2013, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Imperal Mask, 2013, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Imperal Mask, 2013, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Imperal Mask, 2013, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Shaduf, 2013© Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Shaduf, 2013© Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Trans America, 2013 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Trans America, 2013 © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Sekhu, 2012-13, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter
Matthew Barney, Sekhu, 2012-13, © Matthew Barney, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, photo Maximilian Geuter

Stretch your view


Stretch your view

Picture Gallery


Artist Talk, Video

Matthew Barney in conversation with Okwui Enwezor

Artist talk on the occasion of the exhibition opening and the European premiere of Matthew Barney's film "River of Fundament" at the Bayerische Staatsoper. MORE


Artist Talk, Video, discussion, conversation

Matthew Barney, Jonathan Bepler, and Hans Ulrich Obrist

15.06.14, 12 am

In conversation: artist Matthew Barney, composer Jonathan Bepler, and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. MORE


Booklet

Matthew Barney: River of Fundament

The exhibition booklet guides through the exhibition and explains the complex correlations between the different parts of the Gesamtkunstwerk "River of Fundament". MORE


Film

Matthew Barney: River of Fundament — The Film

Taking the American landscape as its backdrop, the film "River of Fundament" is conceived of as a contemporary opera and an epic story of regeneration and rebirth. MORE


Essay

Portals and Processions: Matthew Barney's "River of Fundament"

Essay by Okwui Enwezor MORE


In the press

Reviews on Matthew Barney's "River of Fundament"

Interviews, stories of performance participants, book reviews – here you find different press reactions to Matthew Barney's "River of Fundament". MORE


Activity sheets

New: Riddle rally for parents and children

Activity sheet on "Matthew Barney: River of Fundament" MORE


Worksheets

Worksheets on "Matthew Barney: River of Fundament"

Worksheets on topics related to the exhibition "Matthew Barney: River of Fundament" can be downloaded here (in German). MORE


Video

Matthew Barney: Video on the exhibition installation

Video on the installation of Matthew Barney's complex exhibition "River of Fundament". MORE


Video

Matthew Barney: Exhibition Film

Video on the exhibition "Matthew Barney: River of Fundament" and the European premiere of the symphonic-epic film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler. MORE


Poster

Matthew Barney: River of Fundament

MORE