Barney as The Queen of Chain’s Diva in Cremaster 5 1997 Production photo
© Matthew Barney; courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery
From childhood, esotericism never seemed too far away. On one side of the family, Freemasonry; on the other, Theosophy. I was pretty sure some hidden knowledge was waiting just out of reach. (Perhaps bizarrely, I always thought the best bet was the floppy disks full of cracked Atari video games…)
So I’ve always been on the one hand, fascinated and obsessed by symbols and ritual, and on the other hand bored rigid by straightforward narrative. And when I saw the five-film Cremaster Cycle in 2004 with no context or idea what to expect, I was amazed.
The whole Cycle shows a series of interconnected rituals, based on various mythologies, with little or nothing by way of exposition. The richest and most focused is Cremaster 5. It’s an opera of bizarre rituals, which the blurb describes as ‘a tragic love story set in the romantic dreamscape of late-nineteenth-Century Budapest’. But it’s much weirder than that. One ritual involves Barney, having pigeons tied to his scrotum with long white ribbons.
In one way or another Cremaster 5 has been a huge influence on my work since; a memory portal to my childhood’s esoteric dreamscape.
1. Claude Speeed - KRT (unreleased)
2. Claude Speeed - CKK (unreleased)
3. Claude Speeed - Lovers I (unreleased)
4. Claude Speeed - Tiger Woods
5. One for Ghost - Side A (01-06)
6. Academy 23 - 12 (unreleased)
7. Cashmere Cat - With Me (Sevendeaths “Wither Me” Remix)
8. RUSSIA - A M
Throughout: words spoken by LW