Matthew Barney, Back in the Game-News

The hit, 45 years ago, shook the entire football world. Then, just as quickly, people moved. But no Darryl Stingleythe New England Patriots receiver who carried the title with Jack Tatum the Oakland Raiders. Stingley became a quadriplegic. Tatum, the defender known as “The Assassin,” never apologized.

Photographer Matthew Barney was 11 years old in Idaho at the time and remembers the events from slow-motion replays on television. He had just started the game in earnest, and the Tatum-Stingley hit, while shocking, didn’t stop him. Violence was introduced into the football curriculum, he recalled. It was also confusing.

“This was my gateway, feeling the pounding in the head and the way it feels in your body,” Barney said in an interview in March on the set of “High school“posting his new five-movie video that takes the 1978 event as a starting point. He enjoyed the exercise in which he and other boys were ordered to shoot at each other at high speed, he said. “When you step away, and you see stars.”

Barney became a scholar in high school, but changed his years at Yale University, leaving there in 1989 to the New York art world, where he discovered. win soon. Physical exertion was central to his work, from “Recording Restrictions” projects where, for example, he ties himself up and walks along the walls and roof of the building, trying to paint the wall.

Ball served as the lead in the “Jim Otto Suite,” which Barney created in 1991-92, one of the first works that established his approach to combining performance, video and sculpture. His inspiration was Otto, a Raiders player whose multiple injuries led to his body being filled with prosthetics. Otto’s story confused bravery with destruction, and opened up creative work and art.

But the game can resume the work of Barney, filled with countless other topics – differentiating sex, reincarnation, cars, sewers and excrement, among many others – as well as the classic “Cremaster Cycle” (1994-2002) and “Fundament River” (2014) movies. (Metrograph, a movie theater in Manhattan, etc showing “Cremaster” films. this month and next month.)

It’s “High School,” that is open until June 25, Barney pulls an ending that goes back to his childhood. From a place of physical and intellectual maturity, he’s looking at a game — and a country, because football is American — that may or may not have changed. Now 56 years old, he is dealing with an unstable world.

“There is a way in which the violence of our culture has become visible everywhere,” he said. “I think my relationship with that heritage is because of my experience in the game of football. I wanted to create a piece that is visible there, in more ways than one.”

The new job is short for Barney. It runs for one hour, during football games. Six players, out of a total of 11, played the roles of players in the 1978 game, including Barney as Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler. It was filmed at Barney’s warehouse studio in Long Island City, near the East River. And it’s visible to people now in the same place – its last use before moving to a nearby place.

Last fall and winter, the studio served as a rehearsal space, a mobile lab and a film set. When I visited, the main musicians – including David Thomsonwho plays Stingley and is the director of the project, and Raphael Xavierlike Tatum – was going through some episodes that told the story clearly, one after the other.

There were also strange things happening. The extras around him were dressed in the black clothes of the dedicated Raiders, walking around like terrifying camp figures; some were actors, but others were members of the Raiders club in New York City. Others were filmed inside a tunnel dug under the studio, showing pipes, dirt and water.

The artist’s studio, Barney said, has a view of the square. “It’s the kind of organization that organizes this story,” he said, adding: “I wanted my workplace to be known.”

Excavating the canal, he said, revealed rotting pipes and how tides were flooding and receding beneath the buildings. “I wanted the architecture to be visible, like the scene of Stingley’s broken back, and like the damage inside my studio, in New York City,” he said.

For all its names, “Secondary” — the title refers to the back line of defenders on the football field, the corners and safeties whose job it is to stop wide receivers and break up any passing play — treats Tatum-Stingley’s work as his own. the story is a real culture.

It’s a treasure and a sad thing. Stingley died in 2007 at 55; Three, 61, died three years later. All his life after the hit, Stingley wanted an apology that never came. Tatum said the hit was just part of the job, though he boasted that his game pushed the line. Since then, many studies have confirmed that the game is deteriorating. Stabler, who Barney plays in “High School,” helped figure this out later when he was diagnosed with brain damage. presenting with severe encephalopathyor CTE

I asked if Barney, a former football player, had come to complain about his health. “Honestly, yes,” he said. He was happy, he added that he stopped playing.

“Secondary” has a staccato look, enhanced by its steps: A jumbotron-like device shows a video on three screens, while four other videos move the directors around the studio. The hit starts early, but most of what happens after that comes back – the players are getting hot, the fans are getting excited. The game is making its way into the final third.

The idea was not a real help, said Thomson, the team leader and Barney’s partner in the project. “This is not drama,” he said. “I’m not trying to be Stingley, someone I don’t know. We’re not representing his life, we’re representing the moment.”

However, Thomson said, by studying real-life athletes, they confused the behaviors that informed their performance with the athletes they portrayed. Stingley, he said, was honest. Tatum, angry. Grogan, art. Each situation, he said, becomes “a touchstone to which one returns without overdoing it, and sees what is happening in that place.”

In their research, Barney and Thomson read Tatum’s and Stingley’s biographies and watched countless football games and workouts. The hit video — which came in a preseason, non-competitive game — is dark and black. The camera follows the ball as it passes through Stingley’s outstretched arms, so that the impact occurs at the edge of the frame. There were not as many camera angles available as there are today.

This opened up opportunities for revisions, and for Barney to introduce the game tools that the players discussed. (Barney has said that he is primarily a sculptor and plans to have these works displayed in future exhibitions.)

Xavier, the dancer who plays Tatum, had to deal with a pile of wet clay sculptures that tore and broke as he carried them. “I’ve worked with props before, but they were solid,” he said. But the clay was alive. It forced him, he said, to find vulnerability, even kindness, within the man he remembered from his childhood as a tough, even brutal, football player.

Indeed, the characters in “High School” are middle-aged men discussing the memories of the culture they grew up in – and their bodies. Although stylish, the football movements involved in this section are not common or easy for men in their 50s and 60s.

Barney “mainly wanted big bodies, which I appreciated,” Thomson said. “What limits do these bodies have that can have a different sound, a different story?”

But “High School” develops a different perspective as it focuses on American society. The musicians are a diverse group. Jacquelyn Deshchidncomposer, vocal experimenter and member of the San Carlos Apache Nation, presents a musical version of the tribe that has been devastated.

Deshchidn said: “As a native, it was something I was happy to do.” They were also attracted to the nature of the work, spending their breaks looking into the wet tunnel. “It brought images of bones and burials, and the work of reparation – where there are institutions built over our bones.”

Barney is an international celebrity (whose fame only grew in his decade-plus relationship with Icelandic artist Björk), but he likes to keep a low profile. After settling in, he put on a day of work with a close shave while wearing a cap. Actors in “Sekondale” said that his work was strong but his behavior was open. Although some people on the project are those who have worked with him for a long time, such as Jonathan Bepler, many are new to his world.

There is an idea with “Secondary” that Barney is opening a page – of course it’s a studio move, after 15 years at the site, but secretly, too. When I asked him if he felt his age – our age, as we are in our time – he said yes.

“In a good way,” he added. “To stop being a teenager is a great relief.”

Compared to his earlier work, “Secondary” takes on a more concise and cohesive tone. “It’s very national,” he said. “It is a piece that considers the environment in which it was created. In the 20s, I tried to find ways to give a language to the things that were inside me. This piece is so different.”

“Secondary” may take its cues from 1978 and call its players to remember their bodies – but the structure of the work, with an emphasis on the development of the evil that everyone knows is coming, gives it strength and foresight.

It ends in an elegiac vein, the final shot zooming in on the city. “It felt very important to leave the public domain,” Barney said. “As much as the studio is small, there is a big one that is the city and the country we live in. I want it to be acceptable to read on different scales – so that everyone can be in it. .”

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