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Mythology of Shit

Dominic Byrne swam through a river of shit to write this.

Last week over the Easter weekend I went to Hobart to see River of Fundament, a six hour film and

accompanying exhibition by Matthew Barney, showing at MONA. Loosely adapted from Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings—a seven hundred page novel set in Ancient Egypt—Barney’s reluctance to read more than a hundred of these pages meant he was more or less given free reign on what fills those six hours.

What he retains from Mailer is a constant over-lapping of death, rebirth, orgies, scatology and the mythologies that underpin these events. Yet instead of antiquity, River of Fundament takes place within a present-day U.S.A. The film’s main setting—an intricately reconstructed set of Mailer’s apartment sailing down the Hudson River—is divided by large- scale performances in Los Angeles and Detroit before returning to New York City. This is probably the extent to which

I was able to gauge the narrative element of River of Fundament. Days later I found myself reading the catalogue, mouthing to myself “what the fuuuuuuuuckkKK”, realising that a really DENSE mythology lay submerged underneath images of a woman being double penetrated by a glass eye and a hardened piece of poo.

I’ll avoid detailing any more of the sexual exploits that occur in River of Fundament for shock-value as I know this material is covered each week in Honi Soit by an interchangeable set of ‘People Whose Sexual Awakening Led To A Problematic Foursome With Fitzy and Wippa And A Stolen Opal Concession Card’. River of Fundament essentially stands as a continuation of Barney’s horrifying yet elegant visualisation of the biology that allows our bodies to create, love, destroy, shit and eventually die.

The film will show at Sydney Film Festival.

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