Sculptor and filmmaker Matthew Barney has been pushing boundaries for many years now — and his deeply complex multi-media exhibition, “Redoubt,” created during the years of 2016–2019, promises to take audiences on yet another far-ranging conceptual ride.
The exhibition trains its lens on winter in Idaho’s deeply rugged Sawtooth Mountains, a place where one still encounters elk and Dall sheep as well as a pack of wolves that have been reintroduced to the wild. Through film and objects, including four monumental sculptures, his narrative surrounding a mythic wolf hunt gradually emerges, asking viewers to contemplate stories drawn from classical mythology as well as archetypal ideas about humans versus nature that have dominated the Western landscape.
Barney, who grew up in Idaho and has long been drawn to the Sawtooth region, has once again collaborated with composer Jonathan Bepler, to expand upon the expression of his inquiries in aural realms, and has also collaborated with the choreographer Eleanor Bauer, whose dancers embody the relationship between the site and movement. And finally, he injects himself-as-artist into this landscape, as if to ask in this world of life and death, destruction and regeneration, what is the artist’s role? Barney’s body of work in this inquiry includes more than 40 engravings and electroplated copper plates, four monumental sculptures, a two-hour film and a field book that contains stunning preparatory photographs, essays and field notes.
Throughout Barney’s career, he has taken on a succession of these complex projects, and in this one, viewers will find a marrying of traditional casting techniques with new digital technologies. In the film, which will be shown regularly throughout the run, we can watch as images etched in situ on asphalt–coated plates move from figurative renderings into increasing abstraction as they are immersed in an acid and copper solution, and subjected to an electrical current. The resulting copper bursts seem other-worldly; elements in a kinetic mini-universe.
Through the reenactment of the myth of Diana, we encounter the Goddess of The Hunt, plying her weapon as if it were an extension of her body. In the dramatic and stark setting of white and darkened landscape — silent except for the intrusion of natural, and the occasional human, sounds — we may not be truly in virgin forest, but we’re as off the grid as the trailer we’ll soon encounter. Diana, protector and predator, looms as good and evil — as her story unfolds it is hard not to experience this in part as a morality play. What is it in humans that causes us to see beauty in violence and to destroy the things we think we love? Why do we take aesthetic pleasure from the armaments of warfare?