Saturday, November 20, 2010

Matthew Barney and MacArthur - Expiator and Guilty?

During my recent stop by San Francisco, I stopped by SFMOMA, where in 2006 I was lucky enough to catch the exhibit for Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9.  For reasons lost to the mists of time, though, I didn't get to see Barney's original performance for the opening - but amazingly, four years later, the apparatus he used to climb and traverse the inside of the SFMOMA's central tower are still there, along with the drawing he completed at the top of the tower.  What the accompanying explanatory text reminded me of was that Barney performed dressed as General Douglas MacArthur, and that MacArthur is also referenced in the opening music for Drawing Restraint 9, sung by Will Oldham, in which MacArthur is thanked by the Japanese people for repealing a whaling ban (whaling being central to DR9).

This contemporary article from the Guardian has Bjork diagnosing the thematic of MacArthur's appearance as Western male guilt, tied up in Nagasaki and authoritarianism and various other epochal crimes. It seems a fair analysis.

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