Matthew Barney: River of Fundament

Matthew Barney editorialLoosely based on Norman Mailer’s Egyptian novel Ancient Evening, Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament is currently on display at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

River of Fundament takes two forms: the symphonic opera Barney created with Jonathan Bepler – the artist’s musical collaborator since 1996; and narrative sculpture, storyboards, drawings related to film project from its inception in 2007, and selected works from David Walsh’s Egyptian antiquities collection, creating an immersive experience in the museum’s subterranean galleries.

Inspiration for River of Fundament was Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings (1983), which tells the story of an Egyptian mythic journey from death to rebirth. The novel draws from the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ and is a sexually graphic, ferocious telling of the recurring rebirth of an Egyptian nobleman named Menenhetet.

In 2007, not long before his death, Mailer asked Barney to read the novel’s first 100 pages and River of Fundament became the culmination of their two desires: Mailer’s to immortalize the novel he loved, and Barney’s to portray in sculpture and ritual pageantry the post-industrial myths and mayhem of their country.

At MONA, Matthew Barney: River of Fundament is curated by the artist with David Walsh, Nicole Durling and Olivier Varenne. This exhibition premiered at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and was curated by Okwui Enwezor in collaboration with MONA.

A selection of sculptures forged during and after filmed public performances in Los Angeles, Detroit and New York City form the focus of the MONA exhibition including Canopic Chest cast from the remains of the front end of the 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperial (from Cremaster 3), dismembered during the Los Angeles performance.

Rouge Battery – forged in Detroit the once powerful heart of the American car industry, in copper and iron, incorporating the underside of the Chrysler Crown Imperial; and Boat of Ra – an inversion of Norman Mailer’s Brooklyn attic with a bronze cast of his writing desk, which was floated down the East River near Mailer’s home. In addition to other large works from the Haus der Kunst premiere, Barney has created new works in response to objects chosen from the MONA collection.

Born in San Francisco in 1967, Matthew Barney is known internationally for such works as his visionary five-component films forming the Cremaster cycle (1994–2002) and his Drawing Restraint series (1987–ongoing), currently consisting of 21 filmed actions, the most recent of which took place at Haus der Kunst in early 2014.

Barney has received numerous awards including the Aperto prize at the 1993 Venice Biennale; the Hugo Boss Award in 1996; the 2007 Kaiser Ring Award in Goslar, Germany and the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Persistence of Vision Award in 2011.  He lives and works in New York.

Matthew Barney: River of Fundament
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), 655 Main Road, Berriedale (Hobart)
Exhibition continues to 13 April 2015
Entry fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Matthew Barney Boat of Ra 2014. Wood, resin-bonded sand, steel, furniture, cast bronze and gold-plated bronze – courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.