Cremaster 2: Videotape Boogaloo


Until this spring, there was still a press release on
Art House Films' website heralding the coming DVD release of The Cremaster Cycle . If Matthew Barney's films are obsesed wtih potentiality, announcing and never releasing the DVD's seems somehow appropriate. After all, cremasters are designed to rein things in, not let 'em hang out, right?

Inexplicably, nine hours in the Guggenheim's theater didn't give me enough Cremaster in my art/media diet. So after bailing on the mass market DVD's, I went out and got me a copy--in the interest of journalistic research, you understand--of Cremaster 2 to watch at home.

Christian Jankowski, Pipilotti Rist, and Cremaster 2 bootleg tape, for research only

As any of you who has dropped the six figs for the vitrine editions know, watching Cremaster at home is a different ball game (some pun intended). I have to say, If I were gonna spend that much money on a film, it'd be my own. And returning Netflix discs is stressful enough, so I didn't borrow a real copy. Besides, how do you ask someone to loan you their art? Nah, I borrowed a super-clean VHS copy from, well, you'll know where it came from, soon enough.

1. They're video. Even in theaters, it was obvious that the first two installments (C4 and C1 had been shot on video. Not so for the last three, which were HD-to-film transfers. Barney squoze far more than ten pounds of production value into a five pound bag. Not since Sally Potter's Orlando has a filmmaker gotten such an expensive-looking film out of such a small budget. [Howard's End, yeah yeah, but I digress.] The copy I got was clearly not HD-to-film-to-DVD-to-VHS, though, and it shows. Like when I caught Agnes Varda's Gleaners on TV; there's something very "pull back the curtain" about seeing these works as video.

Matthew Barney, Cremaster 2 Production Still, image: Barbara Gladstone, biennaleofsydeny.org Cremaster 2 production still, Matthew Barney image: Biennale of Sydney.org

2. It's still long. Even though C2 is my favorite, it still felt long. Argue that Barney wants it to be long, to force the viewer to experience it at that pace, fine. But the power relationship shifts when you pop the tape in. Let me tell you, if you've got a remote control, you're gonna use it. You can use it for good or for evil, of course, and it's just as nice to rewind the salt flats as it is necessary to fast forward the seance.

3. The DVD's coming out after all, but it's The Order, the video game-like segment of C3 which played on the big monitors in the Guggenheim rotunda. It's on Amazon right now, in fact, for $18.74.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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first published: August 13, 2003.

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