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The slippery side of Matthew Barney and Saviours 

Wednesday, May 10 2006
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Artist Matthew Barney 's films are like the flirt whose calls you keep taking even though you share little in common. At least that's how they work on me; I'm always hoping that the wall between his grandiose visual constructions and my understanding of them will crumble and we'll share the great connection that loyalists to his petroleum jelly-glossed visions claim. As it stands, though, I can appreciate the scope and insanity of the guy's complex imagination.

Drawing Restraint 9, Barney's latest abstract opus, is a commentary on the transformative powers of romantic unions, but it also carries an interesting musical undercurrent. Barney's girlfriend, Björk , co-stars in the film and curated the soundtrack, which should attract more music fans than usual to the movie.

In discussing DR9 — which opens this week in theaters, and plays at SFMOMA on June 23 — with various industry acquaintances, I learned that metal publicist Curran Reynolds holds some special insight. Not only does the New York-based rock flack/drummer/promoter share a love for loaded guitar solos with Barney, but he also worked recreating the same props — the all-important Vaseline-based "field" that transforms throughout the film — for Barney's related N.Y. art show, "The Occidental Guest." Below, Reynolds sheds light on the Barney universe of sticky fingers and Celtic Frost.

Jennifer Maerz: How did you connect with Barney?

Curran Reynolds: I'd seen Cremaster 2 and I was floored by it. I could see from that film that Matthew Barney had an interest in metal — Dave Lombardo from Slayer and Steve Tucker from Morbid Angel took part in the film — so I called up his studio and arranged a visit. [The work on this project] was spent on one sculpture in particular — a life-size room overflowing with piles of whale blubber.

JM: What's one of the oddest ways you spent your time working with Barney?

CR: There was a period of a week or so where our main task was to remove all the Vaseline out from under this giant rubber mold. We started by peeling back the rubber and using shovels to dig out the Vaseline. We would heat up the shovels every few minutes so they would slice through it easier. Imagine six of us dressed in protective Tyvek suits, doing battle with this stuff for eight hours a day, slipping and sliding all over the place. It felt closer to whaling than to art — which maybe is what Matthew had in mind for us.

JM: What types of ingredients went into the set?

CR: Once we built the rubber molds, we would create the sculptures out of a type of thermoplastic — plastics you can heat up and cool off repeatedly in order to keep changing their form. We would start by melting these plastic beads in a little oven, then when the plastic was hot and malleable we would fill a mold with it, all by hand.

We used all kinds of toxic substances, but the most brutal was probably this resin-based stuff we used to build hard shells for the rubber molds. When you first mix up a batch it looks and feels like hot baby food, but then it gets rock hard in a matter of minutes. At one point I got a nice streak of it in my hair and I had to shave my head.

JM: What's the connection you see between Barney's work and the music world?

CR: Some of the favorite tunes in the studio were Ozzy, Danzig, Slayer, Celtic Frost, and Decapitated. Metal seems to have a real place within Matthew's artistic vision. For example, a lot of these metal musicians are really going for it, physically exerting themselves to the extreme and sometimes transforming into inhuman alter egos in order to express themselves — and that idea of an organism facing its own limits and trying to transcend those limits by transforming itself is one that I've seen recurring in Matthew's work.


The main reason I've corresponded with Reynolds isn't to get him to dish goop about Barney, though. Reynolds is the PR man for Oakland's Saviours . The band recently released its debut album, Crucifire, a dense thicket of galloping riffs and razored vocals paying homage to old-school British heavy metal. Their music is aggressively straightforward, guitars revved and rumbling like twin motorcycles on the dirt road to Armageddon. Crucifire is all lean meat — no newfangled effects or gargantuan growls, just dark, hard-arcing melodies and a sandblasting rhythm section. Saviours' CD release is Friday, May 19, at the Hemlock Tavern at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $8. Vaseline accessories not encouraged.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz

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