Matthew Barney’s REPRESSIA (decline) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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The formal characteristics of Matthew Barney’s artworks dismantle mythologies from the inside out. Barney’s current exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art titled Matthew Barney: REPRESSIA (decline) features a sculptural installation from the 1990s, including a two-channel video installation. This article illustrates how the mechanisms of Barney’s methods hollow out systems of signification from within, before remythologizing them. Barney subverts traditional sculptural practices in a number of ways. The present study asserts that the effect of Barney’s sculptural aesthetic produces an emptying of the objects’ signification, followed by what could be termed a “re-signification.” Barney’s sculptural objects become signifiers that resist signification: they flirt with being non-messages. There exists in Barney’s sculptural objects a provocatively fluid tension hovering between message and non-message; indeed, I contend that the object in the Barney installation functions as a sign that at once both signifies and impedes its own signification. Barney dismantles notions of the traditional art object. In Barney’s Cremaster series, this formal mechanism morphs powerfully into French philosopher Roland Barthes’s “answer of the fifth type”. Barney spawns a tertium quid, representing a powerful re-signification of form. Barney murders the art object, actively severing imagery and objects from their inherited denotations and connotations. Unpacking objects in this manner entails an undermining of the unconscious process of the naturalization of signs.
Original languageEnglish
TypeReview: Matthew Barney’s 'REPRESSIA (decline)'
Media of outputArt Magazine
PublisherWhite Hot Magazine of Contemporary Art
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2023


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