The Cremaster Cycle – Cremaster 3 – The Order

“The Order” occurs in the second half of Cremaster 3 and is replete with quasi-masonic symbolism pulled from the story of Hiram Abiff and the building of Solomans Temple along with recreations of Barney’s own imaginings of masonic Initiatory rites.

The character of The Apprentice (played by the artist) has lost his teeth in an altercation with hitmen punishing him for creating a ‘perfect ashlar’ with cast cement rather than stone, thereby making an unstable foundation for the Chrysler Building.

He begins his initiatory process through 1st to 5th Degree encountering characters from previous parts of the Cycle. The Order is a large-scale production (the whole Cycle a monumental undertaking) enacted and filmed at the Guggenheim, with the spiral gallery being used as a metaphor for ascending through the Degrees as The Apprentice literally climbs the walls to reach each stage in his progression.

There are 2 particular aspects of this piece I’d like to mention as being very relevant to my own practice and that I would like to incorporate conceptually;

Firstly, the use of symbolism
Obviously this part of the Cycle is full of occult symbolism, mostly drawn from Masonic rites and mythology. What makes this Barney’s own is the way he has incorporated and changed those symbols and ideas making them recognisable but very much part of his own cosmology. While, at first, it may seem a parody of these kinds of Orders, Barney, as The Apprentice, performs his tasks with such gusto and conviction, despite the rather ridiculous situations, that the viewer has to almost take seriously his striving for attainment and also his rather cheeky attempts to circumvent the strictly ordered process. Throughout the Cycles Barney has evolved and expanded his symbolic mythologies and given them their own weight and provenance through the scope of his work.

Secondly, the multi-pronged approach to materials and disciplines
First and foremost these are performance pieces. Not only that, they are also moving image works, they are theatre; incorporating costume and character, they have accompanying photographs and drawings, they also have sculptural works; many of which play a part in the performances but also stand alone as works in their own right. I appreciate this all encompassing approach to the creation of a symbolic cosmology and the way the artist has chosen to express it through different forms and media that tie together to make a whole.



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