The Whitechapel Gallery and English National Opera collaborate for the first time on a ground-breaking presentation of the work of leading international artist Matthew Barney, showing his latest and best-known works over one weekend.
The UK premiere of Barney’s new film with composer Jonathan Bepler RIVER OF FUNDAMENT will be shown at the Coliseum following a global tour of opera houses and proscenium theatres presented worldwide on behalf of the artist by Manchester International Festival.
The Whitechapel Gallery presents Barney’s critically acclaimed films The CREMASTER Cycle and a live interview with the artist.
The weekend starts at the Whitechapel Gallery, with a day-long screening of Barney’s epic series of films The CREMASTER Cycle (1994 – 2002) on Saturday 28 June. This visually arresting piece of American avant-garde cinema tries to create a mythology for the modern world. From Mormonism to Harry Houdini, satyrs and nymphs to the Celtic giant Fingal, at the heart of the whirling cast of characters and symbols is New York’s iconic skyscraper the Chrysler Building. The five films will be shown throughout the day and followed by a conversation between the artist and James Lingwood, Director, Artangel.
On Sunday 29 June the UK premiere of RIVER OF FUNDAMENT (2014) takes place at the Coliseum, following the European premiere at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich and the US premiere at The Brooklyn Academy of Music. Taking the American landscape as its backdrop, the film is an epic story of regeneration and rebirth. Loosely based on Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel Ancient Evenings, it follows the death and reincarnation of two principal characters, who take the form of Mailer and an anthropomorphic automobile. A collaboration between artist Matthew Barney and Berlin-based American composer Jonathan Bepler, the film was conceived as a contemporary opera that combines documentary footage of three live acts performed in outdoor environments in Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York, with live-action cinema, largely set in a careful recreation of Mailer’s Brooklyn brownstone apartment, where the late author’s wake is underway.
The film features Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Paul Giamatti, John Buffalo Mailer, and Elaine Stritch alongside characters from Barney and Bepler’s previous collaboration CREMASTER 3, some of which are played by Barney and Aimee Mullins. Vocalist Joan La Barbara, percussionist Milford Graves, baritones Eugene and Herbert Perry, singer/actor Deborah Harry and composer/organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, lead an eclectic group of musicians.
US artist Matthew Barney is one of the most significant figures of his generation. His surrealist films and performances create immersive environments, which reconsider a generation’s relationship to history and the human body.
The CREMASTER Cycle will fill the spaces of the Whitechapel Gallery, and visitors will hear introductions to each film by leading artists and critics, and enjoy picnic lunches during the screenings. RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is presented in the auditorium of the London Coliseum as part of the international tour and is a rare opportunity to experience this brand new work by Matthew Barney and composer Jonathan Bepler, who also collaborated with Barney on The CREMASTER Cycle.
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, said, ‘We’re delighted to be celebrating Matthew Barney at the Whitechapel Gallery by revisiting his iconic body of work, The CREMASTER Cycle, which has influenced a whole generation of artists. Barney’s work fuses art, theatre and performance so we’re incredibly excited to be working in partnership with ENO, hopefully the first of many collaborations bringing art to new audiences.’
ENO Artistic Director John Berry said: ‘This venture with Matthew Barney – surely one of the most significant visual artists of his generation – is a wonderful opportunity for ENO to connect with visual arts lovers in London. It is very much in keeping with ENO’s vision to collaborate with the world’s finest artists, across all practices and I’m thrilled Whitechapel Gallery will be our partner in this unique presentation. Matthew always envisaged RIVER OF FUNDAMENT being shown in opera houses around the world, and I’m delighted that its UK debut will be at ENO’s London Coliseum.’
Matthew Barney was born in San Francisco in 1967 and raised in Boise, Idaho. He attended Yale University, receiving his BA in 1989, and then moved to New York City, where he lives and works today. From his earliest work, Barney has explored the transcendence of physical limitations in a multimedia art practice that incorporates feature-length films, video installations, sculpture, photography, and drawing. In 1994, Barney began work on his epic CREMASTER Cycle, a five-part film accompanied by related sculptures, photographs, and drawings, which he completed in 2002. Barney has exhibited worldwide and has received numerous awards, including the Aperto prize at the 1993 Venice Biennale; the Hugo Boss Award in 1996; the 2007 Kaiser Ring Award in Goslar, Germany; and the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Persistence of Vision Award in 2011.
Composer Jonathan Bepler was born in Philadelphia in 1959 and was largely self-taught on many instruments before he attended Bennington College, where his studies focused on composition, improvisation, and performance. Bepler’s interest in collaboration and interdisciplinary work was further explored during the twenty years he lived in New York City, before moving to Berlin. His work often involves the comingling of seemingly disparate elements, a love of chaos, and a desire for reconciliation. He has collaborated with choreographers including John Jasperse, Sasha Waltz, and Jennifer Lacey. Bepler has worked with the Ensemble Modern, the Glenn Branca Ensemble, and the Basel Synfonietta. A multi-channel sound installation for Broken Ensemble was recently exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. His 2008 score for The Rape of the Sabine Women, a collaboration with artist Ann-Sofi Siden inside the Royal Dramatic Theater of Sweden, was shown in Berlin and Stockholm.
Matthew Barney: The CREMASTER Cycle, Saturday 28 June, 11am – 8pm
Tickets £25 Whitechapel Gallery, 77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. Nearest London Underground Station: Aldgate East, Liverpool Street, Tower Gateway DLR. T + 44 (0) 20 7522 7888 firstname.lastname@example.org whitechapelgallery.org