The Five Points of Fellowship, 2002

The Five Points of Fellowship is a monumental sculptural installation that derives from a particular scene in Matthew Barney’s film CREMASTER 3. In the film we meet The Entered Apprentice, played by Barney himself, and the Architect, played by artist Richard Serra. The Apprentice and the Architect take part in the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City, a process that is conflated with Masonic symbols and rituals, as well as references to all of the CREMASTER-episodes. While the action in the film occurs mainly during the construction process of the Chrysler Building, also included is an interlude called The Order, which takes place in the Guggenheim Museum. 

The Order is played out as a competition in which the Apprentice, the sole contestant, must complete challenges on five different levels, each representing one of the five films in The CREMASTER Cycle. The Apprentice faces a variety of challenges, and at level four he encounters an enlarged and abstracted set of bagpipes in the form of a sheep with four horns – two pointing upwards and two pointing downwards. These horns are a distinguishing characteristic of the Loaghtan sheep, an ancient breed from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea – the location of CREMASTER 4. This sheep features in CREMASTER 4 as a symbol of the potential equilibrium of the forces of ascension and descension. In The Order, the task of the Apprentice is to throw the pipes onto the sheep until they transform into bagpipes. The throwing ritual derives from Scottish folklore, where men compete in ‘tossing the caber’ – a large tapered pole. The act of throwing also seems to reference a scene from the film's prologue, in which the Irish mythological creature Fionn MacCumhaill throws polyhedral columns into the water to create The Giant's Causeway.

The Five Points of Fellowship originates from the forth level scene of the Order and features the large stacks of pipes thrown by the Apprentice along with piles of thrown pipes that failed to hit the sheep. On the light-blue plastic mat the transformed animal rests, a hybrid of bagpipes and sheep – its bodily orifices blocked, referencing the self-contained system explored in Barney’s early works.

The title, The Five Points of Fellowship, refers to Masonic rituals and to the story of Hiram Abiff, the purported architect of Solomon’s Temple. Towards the end of the film the Apprentice murders the Architect with a blow to the forehead, and thus recreates the myth of Hiram Abiff who, according to legend, was killed by a blow to the forehead by three apprentice masons. When his corpse was found, King Solomon resurrected it by using the position called The Five Points of Fellowship, consisting of foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear. This embrace holds a central place within the Freemason ritual, and in CREMASTER 3, represents the potential of transformation.

(Therese Möllenhoff)


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