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March 22 – A World Rattled of Habit: Films by Ben Rivers


Sunday March 22, 2009, 7:00 pm

At the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
A World Rattled of Habit – Films by Ben Rivers
Ben Rivers in person!

His films play as fragments of stories, like the crumbly bits of dreams that cling to waking consciousness. — Ed Halter, The Village Voice

This year’s most noteworthy new discovery was the work of Britain’s Ben Rivers, a relatively young and highly prolific artist filmmaker. What’s most striking about Rivers’ work, apart from the sheer physical pleasure of his hazy chiaroscuro, is its resonance with specifically British cinematic traditions… Here’s hoping North Americans receive more opportunities to experience Rivers’s gentle, poignant cinema. — Michael Sicinski, GreenCine Daily

Tonight we’ll be screening:

We The People (2004, 1 min, 16mm, b/w)
The mob rages. The person flees.

House (2005/7, 5 min, 16mm, b/w)
The old dark house, where only fragments remain of a once animated domestic history, reoccupied by a history of horror films. Crumbling interiors. Stained, peeling walls and forgotten furniture. Dust sheets on rotting floorboards. Shattered windows. The unfolding process of abandonment, decay and renewal.
Searching this landscape for signs of half remembered narratives; obsessively making models to re-imagine the boarded up, gently decomposing remnants of a home.

This Is My Land (2006)

This Is My Land (2006, 14 min, 16mm, b/w)
A hand-processed portrait of Jake Williams – who lives alone within miles of forest in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Jake always has many jobs on at any one time, finds a use for everything, is an expert mandolin player, and has compost heaps going back many years. He has a different sense of time to most people in the 21st Century, which is explicitly expressed in his idea for creating hedges by putting up bird feeders. It struck me straight away that there were parallels between our ways of working – I have tried to be as self-reliant as possible and be apart from the idea of industry – Jake’s life and garden are much the same – he can sustain himself from what he grows and so needs little from others. To Jake this isn’t about nostalgia for some treasured pre-electric past, but more, a very real future.

The Coming Race (2006, 5 min, 16mm, b/w, Ireland)
A film in which thousands of people climb a rocky mountain terrain. The destination and purpose of their ascension remains unclear. A vague, mysterious and unsettling pilgrimage fraught with unknown intentions.

The title The Coming Race is after a Victorian novel by E.G.E. Bulwer-Lytton, published 1870, concerning a subterranean super-race who live under a mountain – which at the time was considered by some to be a work of fact.

Astika (2006, 8 min, 16mm, Denmark/UK)
A portrait of Astika, who lives on an island in Denmark. He has lived in a run down farm house for 15 years and his project has been to let the land around him grow unchecked, but now he has been forced to move out by people who prefer more pristine neighbours.

Astika by Ben Rivers was the next film, a piece that I wish was a living installation! I absolutely didn’t want to leave this zone the second it began; with incredible textures of rock and cement, like a micro/macro world much like our newly coined sister planet Gliese 581. The depiction of overgrowth with red and gold contrast objects injects a richness to the environment this man Astika, a man living on an island in Denmark, lives in. His project has been to let his farmhouse grow over around him, now being forced to move because of his inherent eccentric lifestyle. The kind of overgrowth captured by Rivers is a kind laden with richness, life and magic. The field recordings of the garden and Astika speaking are ambiguous to the point where you can’t tell if he’s talking about killing himself, or the beauty of the birds who fear his presence. The haptic screen and gorgeous interference of glass and foliage only add to the haunting and rich view of this film. It is a vision of freedom I can’t wait to approach in my real life.’ Ashby Collinson (review from PDX festival, Portland)

Ah, Liberty! (2008)

Ah, Liberty! (2008, 20 min, anamorphic 16mm, b/w, 2008)
A family’s place in the wilderness, outside of time; free-range animals and children, junk and nature, all within the most sublime landscape. The work aims at an idea of freedom, which is reflected in the hand-processed Scope format, but is undercut with a sense of apocalyptic foreboding. There’s no particular story; beginning, middle or end, just fragments of lives lived, rituals performed.

“To name an attitude black and white suggests reduction, but in this rural, ethnographic portrait the artist unravels a thousand tones of each. How long does it take until this overflowing bath becomes a lake, until the simple forest drive (there is nothing simple here) tranforms these children into airborne angels of light? There is a tender brutality at work here, nothing is polished or smooth or well rounded, instead the advventure of seeing is undertaken ready to fall and bruise, to be wounded by its search. And it is from this necessary wound that the artist joins in with the life of a family grown wild out of doors with the horses and chickens. For its compassion, its refusal of the sentimental, its quick witted montage and dramaturgy of the everyday, the Tiger Award goes to Ah, Liberty!” (Jury Statement, Rotterdam International Film Festival 2008)

Origin of the Species (16 min, 16mm, colour, sound)
A film begun as a portrait of S, a 75 year old man living in a remote part of Inverness-shire. S has been obsessed with Darwin’s works for much of his life. Since a child he has wondered at life on Earth and, though he never became an academic, found in Darwin many answers to his questions. The film images concentrate on the mysterious geography of his world; his garden – from the microcosmic to the grand; the contraptions and inventions he’s made; his isolated patch of land where he has built his house after a life of travelling and working around the world. The soundtrack has S heard discussing his take on life on Earth and humans place upon it. The film attempts to span from the beginnings of the world up to an uncertain future.

A World Rattled Of Habit (2008)

A World Rattled Of Habit (2008, 10 min, 16mm, col/b+w)
A day trip to Suffolk, to see my friend Ben and his dad Oleg…

More on Ben Rivers:
Ben Rivers was born in Somerset, England, in 1972. Studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art, 1990-93. He has exhibited at many international film festivals and galleries, and won numerous awards, most recently Tiger Award for Short Film, IFF Rotterdam 2008 and Best Experimental Film, Vila do Conde 2008. He has been the recipient of a number of commissions, including a London Artist’s Film and Video Award, for which he made two new works – On the Origin of Species and Ah, Liberty!

Recent shows include; On Overgrown Paths Solo Show, Permanent gallery, Brighton, Nov/Dec 2008; Wild Shapes Cell Project Space, London, Oct/Nov 2008; If – People and Places in recent film and video Bloomberg Space, London, March-May 2008; Artist-in-focus screenings in Courtisane Festival, Ghent 2008; Pesaro International Film Festival 2008; London Film Festival 2008 and Punto de Vista, Spain 2009. Together with US artist filmmaker Ben Russell, he toured New Zealand/Australia in July/Aug 2008 with a two-person show We Can Not Exist In This World Alone.

In 1996, Ben co-founded and since co-managed/programmed Brighton Cinematheque – renowned for screening a unique programme of film from its earliest days through to the latest artist’s film and video. He currently lives and works in London.