Matthew Barney opens River of Fundament.

In Events and Exhibitions / March 30, 2014

The world premier of Matthew Barney’s new project River of Fundament is on show from March 16 through August 17 at the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

The exhibition brings together for the first time, the entire ensemble of Matthew Barney’s multi-part River of Fundament project, comprising the symphonic film of epic length (5 hours) River of Fundament, large-scale sculptures, drawings, photographs, story boards, and vitrines. In its entirety, the project is one of the artist’s most complex and ambitious works to date.

Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler: River of Fundament (2014): Production Still, Photo by Chris Winget © Matthew Barney. All rights reserved.
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler: River of Fundament (2014): Production Still, Photo by Chris Winget © Matthew Barney. All rights reserved.

Matthew Barney has been developing the project in collaboration with the Berlin-based American composer Jonathan Bepler since 2007. The work is inspired by the American author Norman Mailer and his novel, Ancient Evenings, set in Ancient Egypt from 1290-110 b.C., which when it was published in 1983 was criticised for its excessive nature. Rivers of Fundament resents 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 reincarnation with recycling and the man’s soul with the automobile.

The exhibition continues the programme Barney has developed over the last seven years in which narrative sculpture is generated through a complex system of storytelling that intertwines personal, historical, and modern mythologies. 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.

Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler: River of Fundament (2014): Production Still, Photo by Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney. All rights reserved.
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler: River of Fundament (2014): Production Still, Photo by Hugo Glendinning © Matthew Barney. All rights reserved.

With the sculptures of this project, Barney has moved away from his signature materials – thermal plastic and petroleum jelly – towards metals, materials, which, on the one hand, are more typical of traditional sculpture and, on the other hand, of industrial processes: iron, bronze, lead, copper, brass, zinc, silver, as well as the continued employment of organic elements such as sulphur and salt.

River of Fundament is curated by Okwui Enwezor and organized by Haus der Kunst in collaboration with Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania, Australia. A modified version of the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Old and New Art in fall 2014.

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