De Lama Lamina and other shorts

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4 out of 5 stars
De Lama Lamina and other shorts
Tree huggers: Barney's subject gets to the root of the matter.

As with most crossover artists, multimedia auteur Matthew Barney brings wholly unique references and expectations to cinema. Those who relish his sensibilities (most famously on display in the five-part Cremaster Cycle) are intimately familiar with his fetishistic use of petroleum jelly, affection for obscure symbolism, and chronic focus on flesh and bodily functions.

Open-minded Barney virgins should sample this dialogue-free program, which includes two short films that bookend his career. The first, 1988’s “Scabaction,” intercuts shots of industrial welding with his routing of an ingrown hair using a pair of pliers. The other, 2006’s “Drawing Restraint 13,” transforms a reenactment of MacArthur’s landing in the Philippines into the artist’s own signing of limited-edition drawings.

The marquee attraction, though, is 2004’s De Lama Lamina, wherein Barney turns an industrial tractor holding a dead tree and a rock climber into a parade float during Brazil’s Carnavale. Barney, naked and ass-reamed with a giant turnip, is strapped to the underbelly of the tractor, rubbing his engorged penis against the machine and squeezing feces out of a stuffed monkey onto his abdomen (some of this appeared as a short titled “Hoist,” in the 2006 omnibus Destricted). It all has to do with biomorphic transformations and defying the second law of thermodynamics—obviously—but the clueless will be equally mesmerized.

By: Stephen Garrett

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