by Jay Gabler
|front row seat is the blog of jay gabler, the daily planet’s arts editor. to keep up on the local arts scene, follow artsorbit on twitter and subscribe to arts orbit weekly.|
One of the most powerful aesthetic experiences of my life was sitting through a daylong screening of Matthew Barney’s complete Cremaster Cycle at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The five-film series, which our own Walker Art Center was the first museum to acquire in its entirety, is a supremely weird allegory for the descent of the testicles during the process of fetal development, which is itself an allegory for the development of sexual identity in the individual and in society. Or something like that. The films are full of astonishing imagery and layers upon layers of symbolic reference. Barney, who’s best known to the general public as Mr. Björk, has been relatively quiet of late—save for the disappointing Drawing Restraint 9, a film in which he co-starred with his wife—but that’s okay, the Cremasters are achievement enough for an entire career.
At the heart of the series is the epic Cremaster 3, and at the heart of that film is the section called “The Order,” in which Barney faces five challenges as he scales the interior of the Guggenheim Museum in a reverse race against the molten Vaseline poured down by sculptor Richard Serra. (Note to St. Paul art lovers: What is, as far as I know, the only Serra canvas in Minnesota—the Walker has one of his sculptures—hangs in the reception area at St. Thomas’s McNeely Hall.) The excerpt above depicts Barney (in kilt) facing amputee track star Aimee Mullins, who transforms into a catlike beast and takes a bite out of him. Their encounter is intercut with shots of Serra slinging Vaseline and a battle between New York hardcore bands Agnostic Front and Murphy’s Law; before ascending to Mullins, Barney had to crawl through the mosh pit between the two bands.
Which brings me to today’s news item: Agnostic Front are coming to the Triple Rock on April 6. After the show, concertgoers may be expected to scale the Seven Corners parking ramp while Garrison Keillor flings remainder copies of his recent novels from the uppermost level.