Matthew Barney on Animals, Alchemy, and Art

Andy Battaglia of ArtNews has a story from back in February that is again relevant for the reason that artist Matthew Barney’s film Redoubt (2018), which originally debuted at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, earlier this year, is now to get a theatrical release in New York at Film Forum, courtesy of Grasshopper Films. The film is also set to go on view at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in September. “Mercifully,” wrote Alex Greenberger for ArtNews this week, “as opposed to other Barney works, like the six-and-a-half-hour Cremaster Cycle and the nearly-six-hour River of Fundament, the work clocks in at a manageable two hours.

The Engraver in Matthew Barney’s  Redoubt , 2018. (Hugo Glendinning/© Matthew Barney/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York & Brussels, & Sadie Coles HQ, London).

The Engraver in Matthew Barney’s Redoubt, 2018. (Hugo Glendinning/© Matthew Barney/Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York & Brussels, & Sadie Coles HQ, London).

As some may recall, Barney’s film about animals, alchemy, and the astronomical alignment of earthly bodies and heavenly stars is, as Battaglia wrote, “a mostly wordless movie set in central Idaho, in remote hinterlands marked by mountains and trees that seem to stand in wait of whatever ghastly or graceful happening might transpire in the wild.” Beware the spoiler if clicking on links in this post, but as Battaglia’s article continued, “Barney stars as one of the main characters, a U.S. Forest Service worker who boasts a burly beard and takes up landscape drawing by unconventional means. Choreography figures in the storyline, first through movement barely discernible as dance and later in forms that turn more conspicuous.”

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t set eyes on Redoubt, yet…

As stated by The Yale Center for British Art, “the film layers classical, cosmological, and American myths about humanity’s place in the natural world, continuing Barney’s long-standing preoccupation with landscape as both a setting and subject. Redoubt loosely adapts the myth of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon, a hunter who trespasses on her and is punished. Like most of Barney’s previous films, Redoubt contains no dialogue; instead, the characters communicate through choreography that echoes and foreshadows their encounters with wildlife.”

In addition to the film, Barney’s Redoubt (the exhibition) features pieces in other media that demonstrate casting and electroplating techniques. Four large-scale sculptures were made from the trunks of burned trees harvested by the artist from the Sawtooth Mountains. Also included are engravings on copper plate created during the filming of Redoubt as well as a series of electroplated copper reliefs that depict imagery from the film. Touching on themes of artistic creation, ecology, and dance, Matthew Barney: Redoubt showcases the artist’s trademark interdisciplinary and multimedia approach.


The exhibition will come to the UK in 2020.

Matthew Barney: Redoubt

March 4, 2020–May 25, 2020
Hayward Gallery, London.