Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint opened last week at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, including Drawing Restraint 9, a new film from 2005 (the previous components date from 1989-93); it travels to Seoul in the autumn and is scheduled to show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 23 June through 19 September 2006.
The Drawing Restraint series examines the relationship between self-imposed resistance and creativity, a theme DR9 tracks through the construction and transformation of The Field, a vast sculpture of liquid vaseline which is poured, molded, cut, and reformed on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, a Japanese whaling vessel.
Björk and Barney, playing two of the storm-tossed ship’s passengers, fall in love during a ritual tea ceremony (from the press release, “the tearoom itself becomes the tea bowl as it slowly fills up with warm fluid”); eventually, the couple morph into cetaceans via amputation of the lower body. “This mutilation has nothing horrible about it, it's part of a transformation. When we cut into each other, the open flesh is not human flesh any more. It's white like whale flesh. Our legs drop off, we grow foetus-like tails and then we become whales and swim off towards the Antarctic.”Free-associations from [scant] writings on the film:
- the history of petroleum-based energy, and the evolution of the whale
- the Japanese whaling tradition;
- whale oil as a primary energy source;
- the diesel-fueled ship;
- a tanker truck loaded with hot petroleum jelly;
- the tanker led by oxen, horses, deer, and wild boar, flanked by hundreds of Japanese revelers;
- the ship departs for the Antarctic, and over weeks the mass of petroleum jelly cools;
- the cured surface of the jelly casting becomes a provocative reflection of the changing condition of the seas;
- whale processing methods and tools are used to create the sculpture;
- with the de-molding of the sculpture as the ship reaches the Southern Ocean; and
- a backdrop of luminous icebergs.