Esteemed American artist Matthew Barney is best known for The Cremaster Cycle (1995-2002), an extraordinary five-part film project accompanied by related sculptures, photographs and drawings. Created out of sequence over an eight year period, together the films have created a unique aesthetic universe of densely layered symbolism. Throughout the series Barney mixes anatomical and psychosexual allusions with prosthetic effects and draws on a vast range of mythological and historical characters, locations as well as his own autobiography.
The title refers to the male cremaster muscle that raises and lowers the male reproductive system according to temperature, external stimulation, or fear. Barney uses this biological process as a metaphor to explore the evolution of form through conditions of ascension and decension. In the formation of male sexual development, this can be tracked from an embryonic state of being undifferentiated, through resistance to an eventual state where it cannot avoid becoming differentiated. For Barney the biological also applies to the creative process – from the spark of an idea to its final resolution – and represents a condition of pure potentiality.