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From highbrow to hardcore: Matthew Barney, Björk, and the digicamarazzi 

Wednesday, Jun 28 2006
Culture queens of Björk's status can't just saunter into a room without magnetically tractor-beaming the eyeballs of everyone within sight of her hot-pink stockings. Especially when she steps into a museum party with a small entourage that includes a flashy fashionista in a gold lame jacket, second-skin striped leggings, and white wrestling boots. Still, Björk quietly worked her way into a cluster of friends at an SFMOMA soiree last week in honor of the opening of her boyfriend, filmmaker Matthew Barney 's latest art opus, Drawing Restraint 9 — a three-hour piece loosely connecting whale blubber, Japanese tea ceremonies, romantic unions, and removing your eyebrows that co-stars the Icelandic icon. While multiple digi-cams captured her from various vantage points, Björk chatted with frequent collaborators Matmos before the local duo went on to stun the crowd with serious avant-electronic madness — their live performances aren't the sort that suffer from the routine. And really, anyone who can channel poetic sounds from slugs, as they have done, are never lacking for instrumentation. For the Restraint party — an event artfully decorated with prickly flora echoing themes from the film — Matmos teamed with J. Lesser to tease harmonious and discordant emissions from laptops, keyboards, and a guitar (no slimy gastropods in sight). The show-stopper, however, was watching M.C. Schmidt poke, stroke, and prod a chunk of dry ice with a tuning fork, a bell, aluminum singing rods, and an ingot of solid silver, to create truly surreal, atmospheric music. A videographer captured the experiment live, so those with craning necks could understand the odd sources of Matmos' sorcery — which on this particular night channeled Barney's cinematic vision into sound.

I caught the first of Matmos' two sets, but not before spending the early part of the evening munching on fried edamame as Wobbly DJed creepily enchanting choral selections — and feeling giddy about the constant barrage of art-damaged performances we get to witness in this city. Unfortunately, though, I didn't stick around for a set by Rondo Brothers — how often do you get to hear local producers specializing in "Hawaiian hip-hop" beats? Instead, I staggered home much later from a party of free dot-comÐcompany booze (yes, they've cranked up the giveaways once again) while those in on the poorly kept secret were crammed into the Stud for the MOMA afterparty. It was there that Barney and colleague Matt Ryle DJed to what observer Greg Bloch described as a "wall of gawkers" while a caped Björk hung out nearby. "The place was covered with people just standing totally still and staring," Bloch said the next day. "But by the end of the night it kind of went down a little — so there were, like, two rows of gawkers in front of the stage instead of six." And what were the song selections offered up from the famous director? Speed metal, death metal, hardcore — the kind of club crowd displeasers that created breathing room as they drove away the faint of eardrums. After a chaotic intermission from the Extra Action Marching Band , Björk also took to the DJ decks, using her iPod to play everything from Beyonce to Japanese Pop to Aphex Twin. At the end of the night, the progression from metal to Missy Elliott ended with the new The Best Mashups in the World Ever Are From San Francisco 2 playing on the stereo until it was really time for even the steadfast digicamarazzi to go home.

Air Guitar Update: Because you've been waiting with bated breath, I'm breaking the news that San Francisco's own Hot Lixx Hulahan beat the rest of this great nation in the U.S. Air Guitar nationals in New York last week. Dude is off to Finland this September to see how his imaginary instrument flies overseas.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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