Monstrous Beauty and
Rethinking Matthew Barney's
Relationship to the Horror Genre
I'm less interested in skin than in fascia—connective tissue.1
We've not devised an aesthetic for the inside of the body any more
than we have developed an aesthetic of disease. Most people are
disgusted… but if you develop an aesthetic for it, it ceases to be
ugly. I'm trying to force the audience to change its aesthetic sense.2
We have such sights to show you!
Deep in the subterranean vaults of the Chrysler Building, a creature stirs. A hand breaks through the earth and a red-haired, blueskinned zombie pushes her way out of the ground. She is hauntingly beautiful and yet otherworldly, an object of both desire and dread. Yet, no sooner does she reach the surface than she wilts and withers in the sunlight, collapsing onto the ground again. She is surrounded by undertakers who lift her up and carry her, placing her to rest inside a 1930 Chrysler Imperial New Yorker. Thus opens Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3, which has been described as the culminating piece, the cornerstone, of the entire Cremaster cycle.
In e-mail correspondence with the author, Barney explained that the “dryness” of the classic zombie figure had always “repulsed” him, whereas “the creatures that attract me are wet, sensual, and more un-