Drawing Restraint 9 is a 2005 film project by visual artist Matthew Barney consisting of a feature-length film, large-scale sculptures, photographs, drawings, and books. The Drawing Restraint series consists of 19 numbered components and related materials. Some episodes are videos, others sculptural installations or drawings. Barney created Drawing Restraint 1-6 while still an undergraduate at Yale University and completed Drawing Restraint 16 in 2007 at London’s Serpentine Gallery. With a soundtrack composed by Björk, Drawing Restraint 9 is an unconventional love story set in Japan. The narrative structure is built upon themes such as the Shinto religion, the tea ceremony, the history of whaling, and the supplantation of blubber with refined petroleum for oil.
The film primarily takes place aboard the Japanese factory whaling vessel, the Nisshin Maru, in the Sea of Japan, as it makes its annual journey to Antarctica. Two storylines occur simultaneously on the vessel: one on deck and one beneath. The narrative on deck involves the process of casting a 25-ton petroleum jelly sculpture (one of Barney’s signature materials), which rivals the scale of a whale. Below deck, the two main characters participate as guests in a tea ceremony, where they are formally engaged after arriving on the ship as strangers. As the film progresses, the guests go through an emotional and physical transformation slowly transfiguring from land mammals into sea mammals, as they fall in love. The petroleum jelly sculpture simultaneously passes through changing states, from warm to cool, and from the architectural back to the primordial. The dual narratives, the sculptural and the romantic, come to reflect one another until the climactic point at which they become completely mutual.
Drawing Restraint 9 premiered at the 62nd Venice Film Festival and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2005. IFC Films acquired the U.S. theatrical rights to Drawing Restraint 9 and distributed the film to screen in 18 cities across the U.S. in the fall of 2006.
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