Monday, 29 October 2007


Mathew Barney

Drawing Restraint

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens

20th September - 11th November 2007

Focussing on Holographic Entry Point (2005)

In the east gallery of the Serpentine Matthew Barney has installed his work from 2005 Holographic Entry Point, overlooking the pavilion the large models squeeze into the available space, buckling at one end forcing the door on to the grass open. We shall follow the fiction of this work in an attempt to unpack it. The work consists of two models of the same thing, a sloped jetty on to which boats would be hauled using a winch at the top of the slope. The model on the right as you look at it is lifelike, covered in barnacles and ruined, as though it had hauled up a boat too heavy for its strength. The model on the left is a copy, mimicking the jetty as it would have been before the ‘accident’ that caused it to fail. It is made using Barney’s trademark white self-lubricating plastic. A rope from this jetty, in the same white plastic, runs through the galleries into the western most room, where it is looped around a large unidentifiable object, named Occidental Restraint (2005).

One imagines the scenario which caused the breakage of the first jetty, the object in the far room was hauled through and collapsed the ‘real’. The copy stands resolutely as though it has no problem repeatedly hauling the object, does this mean the simulacrum can pull the occidental? The west is drawn by simulation? We have lost the Lacanian real? It is important that the two works work together, as it were. To tug against one another. The holograph in tension with the western world. The work becomes, it seems, a rather trite metaphor for some Baudrillardian analysis of westernisation, the “generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal”.

Except the conceit doesn’t work. The ‘real’ jetty is shoved so far into the corner as to render its usage impossible; nothing could have been hauled on to it as the wall prevents adequate access to the bottom of the slope (this is if we are to follow the fiction that the work exists within this setting as though it were always here, and there seems no reason not to follow that line, indeed Barney’s work relies on the suspension of disbelief and a desire to follow his newly created mythology). So, if the original jetty could never have operated as such in its position, yet the copy is able to operate perfectly well, able to pull it’s charge up the slope, as the way to it is unimpeded by the internal architecture of the gallery, we have to believe that the white simulacrum has primacy over the jetty it mimics. The implication is that, as Baudrillard states, the real has no origin, the copy is a copy of nothing, “the territory no longer precedes the map […] it is the map that precedes the territory”.

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