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Ben Russell: Recent Anthropologies


All images courtesy of Ben Russell
Tjúba Tén (The Wet Season)
Ben Russell: Recent Anthropologies
Wed, Mar 4, 2009 7 PM
Ben Russell is one of the few artists working to make 16mm film relevant to the contemporary media landscape, while playing off the varied histories of filmmaking itself.

He's made a diverse range of films that have included a pinhole movie of Easter Island, a portrait of an audience at a Lightning Bolt concert, and a flicker film set to a Richard Pryor monologue. Tonight he'll show and introduce four films shot primarily in the Maroon villages of Suriname, South America. They represent a major strain of Russell's work that complicates traditions of ethnographic and documentary film. In a special live double-projector performance that closes the evening, Russell challenges the specter of representation in its entirety, shuttling the image to the point of total annihilation. Russell is at the Wexner Center to work on a feature-length film in the Art & Technology studio. (app. 90 mins., 16mm)

Please note: This show contains visuals that may be harmful to those with epilepsy.

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Keep reading for more information about Ben Russell and the program schedule. Program schedule

(2000, 7 mins., 16mm)

"One of the strangest films I have ever seen; its characters come and go as if they're 'primatives' posing for the camera, either obeying or fighting an ethnographer's controlling eye."—Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

Tjúba Tén (The Wet Season)
(codirected with Brigid McCaffrey, 2008, 47 mins., 16mm)

An experimental ethnography recorded in the jungle village of Bendekondre, Suriname, at the start of 2007, this film is composed of community-generated performances, reenactments, and extemporaneous recordings. It functions doubly as an examination of a rapidly changing material culture in the present and as a historical document for the future. Whether the resulting record is directed towards the films' subjects, the village's temporary residents (the filmmakers), or Western viewers is a question proposed via the combination of long takes, materialist approaches, selective subtitling, and a focus on various forms of cultural labor.

Trypps #5 (Dubai)
(2008, 3 mins., 16mm)

A short treatise on the semiotics of capital, happiness, and phenomenology under the flickering neon of global capitalism.

Trypps #6 (Malobi)
(2008, 12 mins., 16mm)

From the Maroon village of Malobi in Suriname, this single-take film offers a strikingly contemporary take on a classic by pioneering French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch. It's Halloween at the Equator, Lightning Bolt for the jungle set...

The Black and the White Gods
(2008, live performance, 20 mins.)

Using a short segment of Russell’s early ethnographic film Daumë as its foundation, this double-projection performance piece employs a variety of 16mm film loops, hand-built electronics, prismatic lenses, and analog components to create an audiovisual feedback loop that edges steadily towards the phenomenological. With echoes of Tony Conrad's The Flicker and William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, The Black and the White Gods seeks to interrogate the possibility of representation via the abstracted field of bodily experience.

More about Ben Russell
Ben Russell is an itinerant photographer, curator, and experimental film/video artist whose works have screened in spaces ranging from 14th-century Belgian monasteries to 17th-century East India Trading Co. buildings, police station basements to outdoor punk squats, Japanese cinematheques to Parisian storefronts, and the Sundance Film Festival to the Museum of Modern Art (solo). A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Russell began the Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island, and currently teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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