Saturday, May 24, 2008

Matthew Barney Performs Ren at Los Angeles Car Dealership

Above photographs from shweool's Flickr photostream.

Last weekend Matthew Barney performed Ren - the first in a series of seven live performances that will be filmed and edited into a single video - at an abandoned RV dealership just off I-5 in Los Angeles. For the performance, the dealership was transformed into a Chrysler auto showroom called "Ren", apparently a contraction of "Re" (the Egyptian sun god) and "Renaissance". The storyline is based on Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer (who starred in Cremaster 2) and also appears to relate to Cremaster 3 and the recent Guardian of the Veil.'s Linda Yablonsky reports there was a cast and crew of 140, plus over six hundred art-world insiders including, "Barney reps Barbara Gladstone, Shaun Caley Regen, and Sadie Coles, ... artists Mike Kelley, Shannon Ebner, Raymond Pettibon, Doug Aitken, Amy Adler, and Jack Pierson, dealers Jose Freire and Tim Blum, LACMA director Michael Govan, and curators Paul Schimmel, Ali Subotnick, Clarissa Dalrymple, and Klaus Kertess. (Collectors were conspicuously absent.)"

"The performance officially began at 6:40 PM, when a drum-and-bugle corps approached the car lot from surrounding roads and sprinted up the ramp to the roof, playing Bepler's percussive music. With the audience lined up on either side, the trucks parted to reveal a lime-green 1967 Chrysler Imperial with a Barney seal (both familiar from Cremaster 3) on the hood and a large, eggshell-white orb covered in dirt and roots on the back, chained to a smashed-up Port-a-San. Cremaster 3 star Aimee Mullins, who plays The Entered Novitiate, was interred on the roof, under a mound of rock salt and Idaho potatoes....A salesman-actor appeared to intone a nearly unintelligible monologue involving piss, feces, mud, gas, and other typical Mailerisms, like "Isn't time itself born in shit?" Led by the musicians, a thick complement of burly men accompanying the car began to pull it down the ramp like Volga Boatmen....The two-story showroom had double-paned glass on three sides; parked in its center was a gold Pontiac Firebird with its windows blacked out. Interspersed among the spectators, the musicians carried on while the Pontiac drove out and was replaced by the Chrylser. From under the hood came plumes of smoke, cuing the great Oaxacan singer Lila Downs to appear with a mariachi band on the balcony above to perform a haunting dirge. When they were done, the salesmen thanked us for our "business" and asked us to leave so they could clear the smoke. (Mullins was also carried out.)

As a nearly full moon rose above, an interior garage door opened and out came a front loader with a big steel wheel attached to its crane. Six hundred noses pressed against the windowpanes, only to be repelled by the smack of debris thrown by the carnal wheel as the machine tore at the car like a mad, lustful dog humping and grinding its prey. It took about thirty minutes to exhaust itself in the most erotic machine-sex act in recent memory.

[Later, in the "tomb",] the Firebird, now bearing Mullins, was parked between two long rows of Chryslers in need of service. Mouse, the British performance artist, was standing naked at the center, leaning on one of Barney's signature white resin canes and holding a white snorkel-like thing that was sticking out of her vagina.

Lila Downs reappeared to sing another dirge, a cappella, and one of the dealership's "mechanics" reached up between Mouse's legs to draw out a long piece of black plastic turd. With majestic patience, the mechanic and his cohorts slowly unfolded it into a large shroud that they placed over Mullins—and the performance ended in a blackout."

LA Times critic Christopher Knight was critical of the performance, calling it "corny", "obvious", and "cliche". He gives the following description of the performance:

"On the lot's upper deck, three taco trucks pulled away to reveal the smashed-up Imperial, painted scarab green and resting on the back of a flatbed truck. A pair of feet protruded from a shroud-draped lump on the roof, strewn with potatoes, while a huge, dirty black sphere protruding from the car's crumpled trunk turned the holy Egyptian bug into an industrial-strength dung beetle, feeding on feces.

A car dealer made rambling remarks. Then, in sweltering heat, nearly four dozen dirt-smeared laborers used thick ropes to drag the funeral bier off the flatbed, down a long ramp, across the asphalt and, after dismantling some parts, into the glass-fronted showroom.

This ritual procession was followed by industrial-strength intercourse between a backhoe and the Imperial, which smashed up the showroom interior. Glass and metal went flying and three audience members sustained minor injuries.

When paramedics left, the crowd filed into the tomb -- actually the car-lined former service bay. Lila Downs, the great Oaxacan ranchera singer, wailed at a corpse laid out atop a golden Grand Am. A "menstrual shroud" was extracted from the loins of a masked nude woman. Somebody said that locusts were released in the parking lot, but I didn't see them."

Read More:
LA Times Diary


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