I just texted a friend of mine and asked him to give me three words to describe Matthew Barney. He wrote: “Needlessly complicated fashion.” That's pretty good. However, in my humble opinion, the most endearing element to the work of Matthew Barney is how he's convinced people to pay him heaps of money to do excellent drugs, play with cool materials like jelly, go to places where there are icebergs, film some bullshit about those icebergs, and then place all of that stuff in galleries and museums.
It’s not just Barney, however. Half of any artist's game is to convince some rich-ass people that they are putting their hard-earned cash behind something genuine. That's why when you go to a museum or gallery and start thinking, "Weird. All this stuff just seems like warmed-over bullshit to me," you're often totally right. Please don't feel that you're just missing something, or that you aren't smart enough to understand what's in front of you.
It only takes one rich asshole putting his money behind something unremarkable to start a worldwide art lie about the relevance of any body of work. Then the bullshit is placed in a gallery. Once it’s in a gallery and has gotten a shove from the press, a large number of people with neither taste nor balls will say, "Hey, it must be kind of good if it's in this sweet gallery. Also, what's his face from that magazine said it was 'definitely hot.'"
When you tell them you think the work is dumb, they will probably say that there's a gravitas to the work that you must be missing. Beware of these people. Your reaction of, "This just seems like bullshit," is threatening to them because it challenges the worldview that they've carefully constructed by lying to themselves for far too long.
I bring all of this up because Matthew Barney has a new show coming to NYC. "Ancient Evenings, a performance piece-cum-opera encompassing Egyptian mythology and the rise and fall of the US automobile industry, with a nod to CSI thrown in for good measure." Jesus. Could you describe a bigger mess? But I'm sure everyone in New York will eat it up because they might run into his girlfriend there. And please don't say she has nothing to do with his success, because she so obviously does.
This almost feels unfair, but oh well! Here is a shot of Barney from his earlier J. Crew modeling career.
Here is a piece from Barney that I was unfortunate enough to visit in person. I would say, "discuss," but I am afraid you might just discuss it forever and ever because, really, what is there NOT to talk about?
I guess Barney and some people took some long boat trip or something and his crew found him to be so insufferable that they tried to get rid of him by tossing him over.
Unfortunately, they failed, and he made it back on the boat. Then he started drawing with a fish just to piss them off.
Here is a picture of Barney saying something. It's weird, but he has this vibe of someone who would throw you out of his party.
All that said, I am fully willing to accept Barney as a giant of the contemporary art scene solely because his work inspired this video. If you claim that Barney's art has moved you more than this video makes you laugh, you are a liar. Plain and simple.