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At Matthew Barney’s SFMOMA opening last night I was surprised. Bjork was there; she tiptoed right in front of me, trying not to make noise while the band played. I hadn’t realized she was so small. She wore her hair in two tight buns. She didn’t seem particularly happy or sad, instead her expression seemed to be that of consternation.

I knew Bjork was glad that most people didn’t recognize her. She didn’t have a bodyguard or an entourage and her movements made her seem just like any other person in the room. But the crowd was big and she was small.

Matthew Barney, for his part, often stood in one place for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. People approached him, chatted briefly and then walked on. Like Bjork, few people seemed to know who he was.

Upstairs on the fourth floor of the museum lay glacier-like flows of vaseline. Originally pumped into a giant mould, the mass of petroleum jelly had been allowed to harden in the room and then cool for a week. The mould was then removed and after a few hours the whole thing buckled under its own weight and collapsed all over the floor.

At the opening children were drawn to it magically. They were sneaking touches when the guards weren’t paying attention. Then they would look at their fingers in disgust and then wipe it on their pants. This happened several times while I was in the room.

There was a series of events, talks and receptions scheduled for Matthew Barney on June 21st. The opening itself didn’t happen until 6:00pm.

Earlier, around lunchtime, I saw him leaving to drop off a small FedEx package. He was insistant that he put it in the mail himself. The museum staff seemed reluctant to let him go. He looked like he was trying to reassure them that he would indeed come back.

When he returned a woman confided in me that she desperately wanted to have her picture taken with him. Her hands fumbled with her small digital camera and she asked no one in particular if Matthew Barney allowed such things to happen. I suggested she go and speak with him but she was too nervous. About ten minutes went by and afraid she would lose her chance, she strode up alongside him and began asking him questions.  She even got her picture with him.  Afterwards she came to where I was and showed it to me, her hands still shaking from the experience.

— Chris Cobb

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, June 22nd, 2006]

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