Matthew Barney: No Restraint

I first heard the name Matthew Barney through a quick reference on Six Feet Under. After a google search, I quickly became a little obsessed.  He’s been hailed as the greatest artist of his generation, his projects are larger and more ambitious than anyone I’ve ever heard of (if you need convincing, google The Cremaster Cycle).  I’m not sure why but his transexual, petroleum jelly sculptures really fascinate me.  I got to see my very first one in person a few weeks ago at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (on that same trip, I went to an Atoms for Peace concert, it was a very good trip).

Despite having made several films that are available on DVD, they’re mostly out of print, and buying any of them on Amazon would cost around seventy bucks each.  Netflix doesn’t even offer them.  But they did have to offer a seventy minute documentary called Matthew Barney: No Restraint.  I can’t praise this documentary enough as it sheds a little insight into a genius, and his work.

The bulk of the film follows the production of one seriously weird love story, starring Barney, and his real life girlfriend Bjork, that takes place on a whaling vessel off the coast of Japan called Drawing Restraint 9 (the insanely weird trailer can be seen here).  There are interviews with his family, colleagues, art critics, and experts, along with a lot of face time with Barney himself.  It’s nice having this artist on a pedestal taken down so he can be seen as who he is: a native of Boise, Idaho who just happened to get discovered after going to Yale.  But better than all that, it provides this brief peek into Barney’s work and gives some of us laymen the chance to understand it somewhat.

★★★½

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