The remains of a 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperial after being lifted from the river in the Matthew Barney performance. An engine block from the autopsied body of the Chrysler. Note the albino snake visible in one of the cylinders. The performance reaches its climax, with the melting down of the Chrysler in large smelters. The massive Michigan Central Station lies in ruins. The lobby of the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. The beautiful Book Tower.  Built in 1916 and now abandoned.
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Patrik Ervell in Detroit for Matthew Barney

BY Patrik Ervell | Wed. December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM | Culture Club
Last weekend I took a field trip to Detroit to tour the ruins of the city and see the performance and filming of Matthew Barney's new work, Khu.

The performance (this was part two of a seven-part series of performances) lasted over six hours and loosely referenced Norman Mailer's novel Ancient Evenings. It involved molten steel, albino snakes, riding on a barge in the Detroit river, a helicopter, an FBI investigation, a crime scene autopsy performed on a car pulled from the river, a beautiful homage to artist James Lee Byars, and Aimee Mullins copulating with an engine block. It was an impressive production and a memorable experience.

The backdrop and the real star of the performance was post-industial Detroit. The city is part hellscape -- ruins, smoke stacks spewing yellow sulphurous smoke, black factories -- and part Ballardian dystopia -- beautiful abandoned skyscrapers, eerily empty streets, reports of packs of feral dogs in the downtown area, and whole city blocks turned into urban farms.

Unfortunately, there were no photographs allowed of the performance itself, but I did manage to document some of the artifacts left behind and some of the sights of Detroit.



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