Introducing Redoubt and Basin Creek Burn
American contemporary artist Matthew Barney introduces us to his film Redoubt and the sculptural work Bason Creek Burn, both of which are in the National Gallery's collection. Visually stunning and ambitious, Redoubt unfolds as a series of hunts in the wilderness of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The characters communicate a mythological narrative through dance, letting movement replace language as they pursue each other and their prey. By layering classical, cosmological, and American myths about humanity’s place in the natural world, Redoubt forms a complex portrait of the central Idaho region. Redoubt, premiered at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and then travelled to UCCA, Beijing, in September 2019, and the Hayward Gallery, London in 2020.
MATTHEW BARNEY: I came to filmmaking through, I would say, through the back door, so to speak. I started using a camera to document performances that I was making as a student. And in the years after, I was using video to document real time performance. And so I think as time moved on, I became more interested in storytelling. I tend to start any project with a location and that sense, I would say the place tends to be the central character.
And I would say that's very much true with Redoubt that the central Idaho region and the Sawtooth Mountain Range are the central character. Redoubt is a film without dialog. You could say that the dialog has been replaced with movement. Movement carries the story throughout, through choreography, through the hunt, through the trajectory of the projectile. All forms of movement carry the narrative of Redoubt.
It isn't really about any single thing. I think it's about a number of things and among those, the reintroduction of wolves in the Sawtooth region that happened when I was a teenager growing up in that area, and that is a subject that has always interested me in terms of the politics of that area. So I wanted to approach that specifically and in a site specific way and also to approach it more generally through the lens of a kind of mythological narrative of Diana, of the Hunter, and to what extent she functions as a custodian of the forest she protects.
And it's also a kind of continuation of an exploration of using drawing within a narrative as a as a form of storytelling. One of the sculptures from Redoubt is also on view in the galleries, that is Basin Creek Burn, made from a lodgepole pine that was harvested from one of the burns in the Sawtooth region. For me, this sculpture functions as an aspect of the place.
It was brought back from the location where the narrative was told. I'm interested in finding ways of taking the specific narrative from a very specific place and transforming that into an abstract form. And in that sense, Basin Creek Burn is born out of that narrative and carries it forward. But it also is a distillation out of that narrative and down into a more concentrated abstract form.
I mean, in a way that's really what it's all about for me, I think, is to find narratives that have that kind of potential, like the potential to create sculptural form. And that's really where the project ends with that distillation of abstract form. And Redoubt the film, it's really been made to generate sculpture, that I need a narrative in place to make sculpture.
And so the film in that sense is really a tool toward generating form, abstract form.
Art & Artists
Basin Creek burn