Carolyn and I attended Matthew Barney’s REN shoot at the ephemeral REN Chrysler dealership at the intersection of Rosecrans and Bloomfield in Santa Fe Springs yesterday.
It was a very impressive show, fun to watch and at moments quite exciting, though largely staged for the cameras. The former RV sales lot was converted to an amazingly convincing Chrysler dealership complete with stationary on the walls, sales targets, car dealers and pictures of the employees of the month.
The performance started with the synchronized arrival of sections of a marching band which aggregated in the parking lot. The effect was pretty cool, with timing and distance and location of the different elements spread over a huge distance and slowly coalescing, all lead by marching band leader (and composer) Jonathan Bepler, who I’ve known since grade school but hadn’t seen in person for decades.
An iconic Chrysler Imperial was revealed as a funerary casket, a procession pulled by a few dozen strong men, as Egyptian slaves might have hauled stone blocks, down from the roof of the building and through the parking lot.
The imperial wended its way into a showroom to trade places with a gold firebird and then to its demise at the teeth of a deforestation machine, the showroom fitted with bullet-proof glass and lots of crickets for the purpose. The glass, amazingly, proved strong enough for the flying car parts and crow bars, but was not quite proof against the stabilizer feet of the gigantic excavator. We were perfectly located for that moment.
The remains of the imperial were ritually collected and we joined the staff in the parts department for the final procession involving scarabs, a beautiful woman, and a surprisingly large funerary drape, especially surprising given the orifice from which it was extracted.
The depth of detail of the performance was extraordinary. No simple write up can do it justice and I can’t imagine that even a small part of every carefully prepared element can make it to the final film. The details made walking through the performance an exercise in discovery – from post-it notes in the office, to the illuminated Chrysler signs as tunable Taiko drums, to the dealer tags on the cars in the lot everything was meticulously prepared over four weeks. Then a day later it was gone.