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Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle plays SIFF Cinema
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Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle plays SIFF Cinema

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Cremaster Cycle
April 9-15
SIFF Cinema


The cremaster is a thin layer of skeletal muscle found in the scrotum. The cremaster surrounds the testicles, raising and lowering them according to temperature, external stimulation, or fear.

To put that into more familiar terms for those readers who have a scrotum and testicles: You know when you jump into cold water and you feel your nut-sack and balls yanked violently inside you, where they then hide behind your bladder? That's the cremaster doing its thing.

The Cremaster Cycle is Matthew Barney's sumptuous five-part film project accompanied by related sculptures, photographs, and drawings. Barney completed the cycle in 2002.

Cremaster Cycle is not - and never will be - available on DVD. There are only about 20 copies in existence, at the direction of the artist. The only place it can be seen is on the big screen in theaters and only during official screening cycles. The last time Cremaster Cycle toured nationally was in 2003. For Barney's fans, this is a huge opportunity to see this extraordinary work of art.

Back in 2001, a teacher gave me a brochure from one of Barney's shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. My teacher said I should check it out, that it looked like something I'd be interested in. I'm glad my teacher turned me on to Barney, but I'm not sure what that says about my personal aesthetic.

Barney is a magician, a satirist, showman, a philosopher, a performance artist, a writer, and an alumnus of Yale University. He's a multimedia artist working in feature-length film, video installations, sculpture, photography, and drawing. Barney creates images that spring from the most ancient regions of the brain, the very core of the collective human experience. The images speak to the fear, violence, and pleasure of human existence in vaguely familiar and desperately discomforting ways.

The cycle begins on the impossibly blue Astroturf of Brono Stadium in Boise, Idaho and ends in the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest. The journey is temporal and geographic, mythic and (sur)realist, and relentlessly opulent. The sensibility owes a great debt to Luis Buñuel but the visual style is all Matthew Barney. His imagery is original, totally unique, and consistently arresting.

Cremaster Cycle will screen at SIFF Cinema in Seattle April 9-15, 2010. A special Cremaster Marathon showcasing all five Cremaster installments will screen on April 11. Matthew Barney's latest film creation, De Lama Lâmina, will also be screened. Please check www.siff.net for screening times and to purchase tickets. Don't miss it.

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