Seven years in the making, five and a half hours long, shot with a cast of hundreds in an abandoned RV dealership in Los Angeles, a cathedral and defunct steel mill in Detroit, and a flooding replica of Norman Mailer’s house floating on a barge down the East River — Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament finally debuts with a world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music tomorrow night, playing through Sunday. It’s “a story of Egyptian gods and the seven stages of reincarnation, alongside the rise and fall of the American car industry.”
Based on Norman Mailer’s “hypersexual” 1983 Ancient Egypt-themed novel Ancient Evenings, Barney’s River of Fundament combines cinema, opera, live performance, kinetic sculptures of melting cars, a step-dance team, porn stars, contortionists, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Gyllenhaal, the afterlife of pharaohs, “a throne room equipped with a giant toilet” and someone pulling “a debauched all-nighter, while passing from death to rebirth via a river of excrement.”
In this video interview with The New York Times, Matthew Barney — much be-bearded since we saw him at Basilica Soundscape in Hudson and his image officially tailored to be a bust in 500 years — spoke very openly and non-pretentiously about sourcing the novel for his opulent and avant-garde work. Like the Masonic narratives he’s previously adapted to the Cremaster Cycle, Barney used “Ancient Evenings” loosely and intuitively.
“It’s the way that I read, for starters,” he said. “I’m a horrible reader. I pick up bits and pieces as I go and I forget everything else.” “River of Fundament,” Feb 12—Feb 16, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn