“The pressure of that wall of mountains combined with the great distances between places: it was something to overcome. I think there’s a psychological dimension to the way landscape imprints people from that area. I guess formally I’m sort of interested in that”
—Matthew Barney on growing up in Boise, Idaho

The narrative for the Cremaster cycle flows directly from its geographic and architectural settings. In fact, the five locations were the first elements of the Cremaster cycle that Barney defined. The choice of setting for the episodes follows an eastward trajectory, beginning in the American Northwest and ending in Eastern Europe. The table below lists the various locations:






Boise, Idaho

Salt Lake City, Utah

New York City, NY

The Isle of Man, Irish Sea

Budapest, Hungary

Bronco Stadium, Boise State University

Mormon Tabernacle

Chrysler Building

Motorcycle/car racetrack, Northern Island

Hungarian State Opera House


Columbian Exposition 1893, Chicago

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


Chain Bridge, (Lanchid) Budapest


Bonneville Salt Flats

Horseracing track in Saratoga Springs, NY


Gellert Baths


Columbia Icefield, Canada

Fingal’s Cave, Staffa, Scottish Hebrides



The land and setting are carefully chosen and bear connections to Barney’s personal history. He was raised in the West, and currently lives in New York City. He has Celtic ancestry, and the birthplace of Harry Houdini, who has featured prominently in his work, is Budapest.

The setting for the films is the glue that holds it all together. Setting functions almost like a central character and can be a Celtic island, or a baroque opera house, as well a person.

The abstract, non-linear quality of Barney’s work allows landscape, color, costume, and set to come to the fore.

View + Discuss

CREMASTER 2: Genealogy, 1990
1 of 3 C-prints, 21 3/4 x 21 3/4 inches each
Edition of 3, 2 A.P.

1. How does displaying this landscape vertically change your perception of it? What do you notice that you might miss if it was exhibited horizontally?

2. Have you ever been to a similar place? Have you seen similar landscapes in the movies, on television, in advertising? What are your associations with this landscape?

3. What might be the reason(s) for turning this landscape on its edge?

4. Tilt your head (or turn the slide) so that the image is shown horizontally. How does your perception of the images change? Which orientation do you prefer and why?

Art Explorations

Think about a place that has influenced you. It might be a place that is particularly memorable, or one where an important event occurred that shaped your identity either positively or negatively. Write a description of how that place looks and smells, how it feels, what sounds you associate with it. Why is this place important to you, and what about this place will you carry with you forever?

Take a series of photographs of a place that is important to you. Try to capture different aspects of that place by taking the photographs from different angles and stances, at different times of the day or year, with and without people in the photograph. Select one photograph that best represents your feeling about the place and tell why you have chosen it.

Plot the locations of Barney’s films on a world map. Using maps and the internet, locate as many of the sites as you can with descriptions and images if possible. Have you ever visited any of these places or similar places (a football stadium, a horseracing track)? What personal associations do these places hold for you? 

On View

This presentation, comprised of selected materials from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, pays homage to the first Frank Lloyd Wright–designed structures in New York City.

Works & Process

Photo: Petrus Sjövik

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At the Carpet Shop, 1979. From Sausage Series, 1979

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