05 October 2010

False Start

Matthew Barney, in a scene from the suppressed Cremaster "prequel."

Apparently never included on the artist's CV, and for good reason...

Untitled (a.k.a. Cremaster 0.1)

The film opens with shots of a ball park, fully lit in the dark of the night. The stands are empty, and we see a solitary baseball player practicing in front on home plate, tossing balls in the air and hitting them into the darkness. Along the perimeter of the infield is the figure of the satyr Pan (played by Barney himself), who is dressed in clownish attire and is laying down the diamond's chalk lines. From an aerial shot, we are shown that the satyr is not outlining the boundaries of the diamond, but is instead using the chalk to draw an equation made up of unidentifiable alchemical glyphs. The figure of the satyr appears throughout the remainder of the film in a series of scattered, cut-away scenes in isolated locations, performing a variety of puzzling actions -- the most abstruse of which shows him stringing up a badminton net in an abandoned Air Force hangar.

From the sequence in the ballpark, the film cuts to series of shots following a pack of armored ocelots wearing as they roam the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. After that, we are transported to Times Square on New Years Eve in the year of 1945. The attending crowd is made up of nothing but sailors. The ceremony of the ascending sphere has been inverted, with a pair of balls descending -- rather than ascending -- the pole (representing, obviously, the descent of a pair of prenatal testicles) while the countdown is staged as a metaphor for the ominous Trinity countdown at Los Alamos. This latter metaphor of a doomsday clock is made clear by the blinding light that emanates from the base of the pole as the clock strikes midnight.

Next, we see a set of abandoned cargo docks along the Hudson illuminated by the intense light shining from the NYE ceremony in Manhattan. A female figure leads the ocelots in a communal dance. This is believed to represent a dance of doom as led by the goddess Shiva, a visual trope inspired by J. Robert Oppenheimer's famous quote from the Bhagavad Gītā. The accompanying dancers form a series of phalanxes and configurations, often lining up and returning to form the the letters X and Y.

Throughout the course of the film, we are treated to repeated shots of a mysterious figure standing on a sidewalk outside the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. in the middle of the night. He appears to be waiting for someone, and repeatedly checks his pocket watch -- a pocket watch that oozes a vaseline-like substance each time he closes the cover. At the film's conclusion, a limousine arrives and takes the figure to the Washington Monument. There he is greeted by the figure of the satyr who is dressed as an elevator attendant. The two enter the elevator and ascend to the Monument's upper deck.

By the artist's own laconic account, the film is an allegorical mediation of the nature of creation and destruction, and how they relate to masculinity as a biological and social construct. It runs 39 minutes in duration, and features cameo appearances by Mickey Roarke as Roy Cohn, Joe Delasandro as Joe DiMaggio, and Sinead O'Connor as the goddess Shiva, and costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier

According to various sources, the above project was completed in 1992 but was never officially released. The artist withheld it from circulation, reputed to have found the end result unsatisfactory and declaring that its symbolism was both too "muddled" and too "overt," and admitted that the whole thing was a rush-job that somewhat ill-conceived. While a pirated torrents was briefly leaked via Karagarga.net in 2007, few have actually seen the film. Those that have sate that it is a deeply flawed and abortive warm-up for Barney's much-heralded Cremaster Cycle, citing the usual references to "Un Chien Andalous" and David Lynch. One person who had scene the full film declared it crap, saying that that it looked like Barney had simply taken a headful of bad inspiration from watching the video for Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" a few too many times.

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