With Matthew Barney the jury is acknowledging “one of the great symbolists of the last fifty years, who as a utopian has created artistic works dealing with the theme of the boundaries of the sexes.” In doing so the award winner, who numbers among the most important artists of the present day, unites sculptural environments, installations and drawings with videos and performances in his works. The focus lies in particular on the exploration of the restraints between corporeality and sexuality using the fusion of the physical mercilessness of serious athletics and its erotic implications. The jury: “His works are operatic in their scale and cinematic in their form. Art, especially the five films “Cremaster”, prove him to be a very cultivated and consciously contemporary artist who provokes, in a disciplined manner, the absurd with rational means. An unforgettable labyrinthine private cosmos has come into being in which possible human creative processes, with motives and symbols from mythology, history, geology and architecture, are melted into a mysterious parallel universe.”
“all in the present must be transformed” is the title of an exhibit in the German Guggenheim in Berlin, which can be seen until January 12, 2007
Works of Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys are contrasted with each other to point out the aesthetic and conceptive factors which the two artists, in spite of differences in time and place, have in common. At the centre of the exhibit are the metaphoric handling of material, the transformative targeting, as well as the relationship between action and documentation in Beuys’ and Barney’ practice.
Among the works of Matthew Barneys, whose works have been exhibited at the Kassel documenta frequently, are videos, installations, sculptures, photographs, drawings, multimedia objects and films. He works with themes like biology, sexuality, history, mythology, sport and medicine, among others, which in part relate to legendary or mythological figures. In his monumental Cremaster Cycle (1994-2002), a five-part non- chronological ordered art film, the conflict of a prenatal development of a reproduction system is the main theme. Between 1988 and 2005 he developed the 12-part series Drawing Restraint in which the principle of tension and counter tension within the framework of action art is delineated. A part of the series is the art film Drawing Restraint 9, which was also shown in German cinemas in 2006.
The film music was composed by his wife, the Icelandic singer Björk, who also played one of the major roles in the two films (the other was played by the artist himself).