River of Fundament

A film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler

  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning
  • © Hugo Glendinning
    (c) Hugo Glendinning

“I’m interested in abstraction.” In his long-awaited new film cycle, the artist Matthew Barney distils from the myth of Isis and Osiris subjects and figures from a disappearing culture.

River of Fundament is based on the novel Ancient Evenings (1983) by American writer Normal Mailer, a monumental work on cycles of death and reincarnation. Set in the age of the Egyptian pharaohs, the story is told from the perspective a man who has been reincarnated three times. The book appeared on the eve of a period when AIDS began to change society.

Matthew Barney and his composer Jonathan Bepler set Mailer’s portrait of a society with a cultic worship of the body, beauty, and death in modern America. The opera-like plot of becoming and passing is set in the industrial wastelands of Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York. Since 2007, Barney and his team have been staging individual chapters as spectacular, symphonic outdoor performances that announce the film as one of the most original and ambitious projects in the world of art today. 

In a key scene, where the artist had Norman Mailer’s last apartment in Brooklyn Heights exactly rebuilt, the main figure of the novel appears as the author. He is a guest at his own wake. In a virtuosic chamber piece, numerous prominent guests from Mailer’s circle of friends and intellectual surroundings meet, including Barney himself.

River of Fundament is a film, an opera, a concert, a performance, a sculpture, and an allegory all at once. Matthew Barney, one of the most important representatives of international contemporary art, has explored an elaborate network of old and ancient myths in his videos, installations, and environments over the past 20 years, including his path-breaking CREMASTER cycle.

Written and directed by —
Matthew Barney
Music composed and directed by —
Jonathan Bepler
Camera —
Peter Strietmann
Producer —
Mike Bellon
Set Design —
Matt Ryle
With —
Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Buffalo Mailer, Matthew Barney, Aimee Mullins, Joan La Barbara (Sopran), Milford Graves (percussion), Eugene und Herbert Perry (Bariton), Belita Woods (funk/ blues), Lila Downs (ranchera singer), Shara Worden (folk), The Mystic River Singers


— 31. August 2014

Vouchers for the season 2014 are available online.

  • Sun31Aug
    Beginnzeit tba.
    River of Fundament on 31. August 2014 at 3.00 PM


Musiktheater mit dem Ensemble Modern Orchestra, inszeniert von Heiner Goebbels
24. August 2013, 15. August 2014, 16. August 2014, 17. August 2014, 22. August 2014, 23. August 2014
Kraftzentrale, Duisburg
23. September 2014, 24. September 2014, 26. September 2014, 27. September 2014
Produced by Matthew Barney and Laurenz Foundation.