Matthew Barney The Deportment of the Host 2006

  • Not on view

In this large sculpture, the white shell of a teahouse appears to have ruptured, revealing a space awash with the archaeological remnants of a tea ceremony. This enigmatic work, titled after the rules of Japanese tea ceremonies, alludes to Shinto tradition and tenets about the natural world and represents the symbiotic but troubled relationship between humans and nature.

The sculpture is related to Barney's 2004 film Drawing Restraint 9, a collaboration with the Icelandic musician Björk. In the film the teahouse—on the Japanese whaling ship _Nisshin Maru_—is the site of an elaborate tea ceremony and a visceral love scene between Barney and Björk. A storm shakes the ship, and the teahouse is flooded with petroleum jelly. The partially submerged couple undergoes a violent and ritualized metamorphosis into whales.

To make this symbolic sculpture, Barney cast the teahouse in petroleum jelly. When it collapsed he cast the remains in thermoplastic, a durable industrial material. Thus the artist conceived a transformative process analogous to the harvesting and processing of whales and, particularly, to the extraction of oil from blubber. The film and sculpture both address the intersection of artistic, biological, and industrial transformations epitomized by imagery of the whale harvest.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 225.
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
Object number
© 2024 Matthew Barney
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].