Cremaster Roundup

The Cremaster Cycle is now playing in LA, Berkeley, SF, and Chicago. Wider exposure goes hand in hand with wider discussion, as these two very interesting links show:

Mario and Matthew, image: gamegirladvance.comWayne Bremser's article, "Matthew Barney versus Donkey Kong", for the video game magazine GameGirl Advance takes a look at video game character, mythological, spatial and narrative elements in Cremaster 3. That's the one where Barney's character scales the levels of the Guggenheim, passing various obstacles along the way. The hermetic logic of Mario's quest stacks up well against the esoteric, Freemason-inspired obstacles the Entered Apprentice confronts in C3. Bremsen loses me a bit, though, in his critique of the current Guggenheim installation-as-interface.

I once compared Mario to Gerry, Gus Van Sant's nearly dialogue-free desert movie, which is similar to C3 in another way: some people had a hard time staying until the end. Anyway, the idea that everything we need to know, we learned playing Super Mario holds great appeal for me.

For a very thoughtful, engaging, film-savvy discussion, check out Scott Foundas' interview with Matthew Barney on Indiewire. While all the hype's about finally being able to see the Cycle in "proper" (i.e., numerical) order, Foundas puts forward an interesting argument for watching them chronologically. The ambition and production values evolve, obviously, but you can also see shifts in the visual language Barney references, from sports broadcasting (C4, C1) to narrative film (C2, C3).

Once the films are done, the tendency is to see them as the objective; their form overpowering their function (at least for Barney). His discussion here of the films as object generators sounds more persuasive and interesting than in any other interview I've read. And this explanation of the limited edition laserdisc distribution model puts the horse back in front of the cart

Barney: Part of it had to do with figuring out a way to fund it. Looking to the thing we knew best, which was how to edition and distribute artwork, that's what we did. We made an edition of 10 out of the [first] film, divided the budget by 10 and sold it for that. So, at least the film would break even and the work that was generated out of it could start to fund the following film.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: May 24, 2003.

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