Amongst the lapiths and centaurs, the gods and men, we find footballers, boy-racers and post-Freudian gladiators playing out an ancient gameplan in the Elysian fields of art — Adrian Searle, Independent
Eschewing chronological order, Cremaster 4 was artist and film-maker Matthew Barney's first film in a five-part project titled The Cremaster Cycle. Filmed on the Isle of Man, the artist created a drama of competing, compulsive forces that course through the body of the island and the famous 37 mile TT track.
Barney himself played the Loughton Candidate, an immaculately dressed satyr who tap dances and writhes though the underwater canals of the Isle of Man while three fairies picnic on the grass above. Acting as both site and dreamscape, the island race propels the bikers and the satyr through the Manx landscape to an ambient soundtrack of bagpipes and motorbikes. Like the heroes of medieval tales or futuristic film, they appear as expressions of pure drive and desire.
Produced in 1994 and screened the following year 9 – 14 May 1995 at The Metro on Rupert Street, Cremaster 4 was accompanied in London by an installation of Barney's work OTTOShaft at the Art Now room at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain).
The film was acclaimed as one of the most ambitious artist's films of its time and The Cremaster Cycle would be completed in 2002 (Cremaster 4 was followed by 1, 5, 2, and finally, 3). The full set of films and a sculptural work — Cremaster Field — were presented by Artangel at the Ritzy cinema in London later in 2002. Further details about all of the films can be found at cremaster.net.
Production still from Cremaster 4 showing the Faeries assisting the Descending Hacks (1994). Photograph: Michael James O'Brien © Matthew Barney
His works are rituals and scenes of psychic and sexual conflict, of private yearnings and desires. – Adrian Searle, The Independent
Queen’s Pier, two sidecar race teams, female body builders and a Loaghtan sheep are set to feature in a film being shot in the Isle of Man. And what's more, as part of the film, the island itself will turn into a body. — Paul Speller, Isle of Man Examiner, 15 February 1994:
Perfect body language. — Nicola Barker, the Observer Review, 30 April 1995
Images of genitality and nongenitality dominate the work: at the beginning of the film Barney reveals two stumps on his head where he once had horns; and the gifts of the faeries are notably testicular (at one point they momentarily fit one of the sidecars with a well-endowed wheel). — Mark Sladen, Art Monthly, volume 1, issue 187, June 1995
His works are rituals and scenes of psychic and sexual conflict, of private yearnings and desires. Amongst the lapiths and centaurs, the gods and men, we find footballers, boy-racers and post-Freudian gladiators playing out an ancient gameplan in the Elysian fields of art. — Adrian Searle, The Independent, 29 April 1995
As an epic odyssey through the fagged-out remains of modern American mythology, the cycle traverses some of the same imaginative zones as David Lynch and David Cronenberg, the latter director being as fascinated as Barney by prosthetics, mutability and impish perversion. – Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph, 31 October 2002
Matthew Barney finished The Cremaster Cycle in 2002: It was the most debated and most celebrated film project by a contemporary artist that decade and so, in the same year they were completed, Artangel presented all five of the films, in sequence and for the first time, at Brixton's Ritzy Picturehouse Cinema 25 October – 14 November 2002. Stretching from Barney's home town football stadium in Boise, Idaho, to its tragic climax in the Budapest State Opera House, via the Salt Flats of Utah and the TT course in the Isle of Man, The Cremaster Cycle offered a unique, unparalleled cinematic experience.
Alongside the only UK screenings of Cremaster 3 (the final film to be made), the Ritzy cinema also hosted Cremaster Field, a new sculpture by Barney made on site with ten tons of Vaseline and a pentagram of plasma screens. There is now a specific colour of Vaseline known as Artangel 01.
Both screenings and sculpture coincided with Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle, an exhibition of the films, related sculpture, photographs and drawings that toured from the Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris to the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Production still from Cremaster 4 showing two motorcycle sidecar teams, both played by pairs of brothers. The team yellow took the clockwise path around the island, beginning in the lowlands and then ascending into the mountain, the blue, descending team goes in the opposite direction. Photograph: Michael James O'Brien © Matthew Barney
Matthew Barney is an American artist who works in performance, film, sculpture and drawing.
In Cremaster 4, the work produced by Artangel, Barney himself played the Loughton Candidate, an immaculately dressed satyr who tap dances and writhes though the underwater canals of the Isle of Man while three fairies picnic on the grass above. The Loughton Ram is a native species of the Isle of Man which has two pairs of horns, one that rises and one that grows downwards.
Barney has had solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center and the Serpentine Gallery in London, as well as regularly showing as part of group exhibitions internationally since graduating from Yale University in 1989. He was awarded the Europa 2000 Prize, the Hugo Boss Award in 1996, the James D. Phelan Art Award in Video in 1999, the Glen Dimplex Award from the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2001 and the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, 54th San Francisco International Film Festival in 2011.
Images: Matthew Barney playing the Loughton Candidate in Cremaster 4 (left) Production still. Photograph: Michael James O'Brien; (above) still from Cremaster 4. Both images © Matthew Barney
Cremaster 4 is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 1994, it has been screened at Whitechapel Gallery in 2014 and Flatpack Festival, Birmingham in 2017.
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