Switzerland, 2010, 32 min
Multimedia artist Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint series—perhaps best known to filmgoers for the feature-length Drawing Restraint 9, which costarred Björk and a Japanese whaling ship—is an ongoing project of more than 20 years’ duration inspired by Barney’s early life as an athlete. Premised on the notion that form arises in the attempt to overcome barriers to action, the project uses video, film, sculpture, drawing and performance to create art born of restraint. The latest work in this series, the stunning Drawing Restraint 17, merges sculpture, awe-inspiring athleticism and fascinatingly cryptic symbolism into a silent metaphysical meditation on art-making and physical exertion. The video atmospherically glides through an elusive narrative rich in metaphor. As he has in other works, Barney casts notable works of architecture—in this case, in and around Basel, Switzerland—as key players. Split-screen sequences visually interrogate the expressionistic concrete edifice of the Goetheanum, a center for the study of “spiritual science” designed in the 1920s by architect/thinker Rudolf Steiner, and Herzog & de Meuron’s more recent and angular Schaulager Museum (for which this piece was produced). In the museum, Barney portrays an artist supervising the construction of a sculpture made from rotting wood beams, while on the fecund bucolic grounds of the exurban Goetheanum, a blonde woman tills worm-rich soil before embarking on a picturesque tram ride to the museum, where she engages in a dizzying interaction. The site, like DR17 itself, becomes a wormhole leading to an otherworldly zone only Barney could conjure.
Drawing Restraint 17 screens as part of SFIFF54's Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award program, An Afternoon with Matthew Barney.
North American Premiere.