Here Is Every. Four Decades of Contemporary Art

Matthew Barney. The Deportment of the Host. 2006

Cast polycaprolactone thermoplastic and self-lubricating plastic, Dimensions variable, approximately 8' 8" x 20' 3" x 30" (264.2 x 617.2 x 76.2 cm). Gift of Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann. © 2018 Matthew Barney

Artist, Matthew Barney: I'm Matthew Barney. The Deportment of the Host is a narrative sculpture. It's an abstract form that comes out of a narrative, and that narrative is Drawing Restraint 9, which was made on film.

Narrator: On the wall to the left, you can see an image from the film.

Matthew Barney: It was filmed in Japan. And, follows two Occidental guest characters who find themselves on a factory whaling ship in Japan, and work their way through the ship until they arrive at a tea room, where a tea host greets them and takes them through a ceremony of thick tea. And this is where the two guests meet for the first time, and this is where they eventually fall in love, and this is where the room begins to fill with petroleum jelly and flood.

The Drawing Restraint 9 narrative has a couple of organizing principles. One of them is the history of the refinement of petroleum. I'm interested in the range of these petroleum-based products and have used them over and over in sculptures for that reason. So following the production of the film, we rebuilt the tearoom as a mold. And again filled the room with petroleum jelly, this time allowing the jelly to cure, which took around four weeks. And eventually released one panel on the mold, and allowed that side of the form to collapse.

When one side of the mold was open, and the petroleum jelly failed, essentially, it can't hold itself up at that scale. And once the petroleum jelly had slid out onto the floor, we then made a mold of the petroleum jelly in silicon rubber, and then cast the collapsed form in a thermal plastic called polycaprolactone.

Narrator: What you’re looking is a cast of the walls of the tearoom. And, across the span of the sculpture, the spill of the petroleum jelly.

Matthew Barney: So that’s the way petroleum jelly collapses from a solid casting of that size. It breaks off in chunks somewhat similar to a way, the way a glacier calves smaller icebergs.

I think one of the things that continues to interest me in making these pieces is the unpredictability in terms of the various environmental variables. In terms of how hot the petroleum jelly is when it's delivered, the ambient air temperature. Any additives that are put into the petroleum jelly. And most importantly, how long it's left in the mold.

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