Named after the muscle that serves to draw up the testes and control testicular contractions, Matthew Barney’s five-part, out-of-sequence Cremaster Cycle culminates with Cremaster 3, his most accomplished work to date. Barney continues to inject his narrative into architecture though with Cremaster 3 he seemingly welcomes a kind of sculptural release. This three-hour tour through Barney’s Art Deco cock begins inside the lobby of New York City’s Chrysler building, where technology (here, a demolition derby with a 1930s Chrysler Imperial as the target) has begun to implode. Inside the erect Chrysler building, the Entered Apprentice (Barney) slinks his way down elevator shafts, deferring the building’s release by filling a shaft with cement. This is the body as architecture, anatomy as sculpture. Barney’s aesthetic seemingly engages everyone from Argento (architecture as terror mechanism) and Cronenberg (body consciousness) to Kubrick (the unnerving décor) and Lynch (cinema as wet dream), yet no artist has ever moved so far inside the body as Barney does with Cremaster 3. From the shaft of the Chrysler building to the many tiers of the Guggenheim Museum, Barney’s Celtic, operatic allegory is that of the testes ascending and descending in response to premature ejaculation (a barman’s failed attempt to serve ale), sexual asphyxiation (the nooses, the final “little death”) and, most significantly, fear of penetration. What with Barney’s obsession with the phallus, gender-bending motifs and modes of camp, Cremaster 3 is curiously unhomoerotc (a testament, perhaps, to his fabulously comfortable heterosexuality). Forever lubricating his orifices, Barney is perpetually ready to fuck. Yet there’s more to conquer here than penetration anxiety—there’s agnostic law and Murphy’s law (here symbolized by dueling punk bands), mythological fetishes, not to mention a string of chorus girls who dare Barney to explode. This time around, Barney is more conscious of his audience: amid all the ascension and descension, there’s a lot more room for laughter in this final installment of the Cremaster cycle. Or maybe it’s because a three-hour handjob needs some comic relief before the big bang. Sure, the Chrysler building’s orgasm is anti-climactic but Barney’s sometimes perplexing, always exhilarating video art is an outrageous reminder that we have to take our time with that elaborate sculpture between a male’s legs.
- Matthew Barney
- Matthew Barney
- Matthew Barney, Richard Serra, Aimee Mullins, Paul Brady, Terry Gillespie, Mike Bocchetti, David Edward Campbell, James Pantoleon, Jim Tooey, Nesrin Karanouh, Peter D. Badalamenti, The Mighty Biggs
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: