A new solo show by British artist Ben Rivers (b.1972), brings together two of his seminal 16mm film works and two new films, premiering at Camden Arts Centre. To complement his exhibition, Rivers has curated a group show, Edgelands, exploring the overlooked fringes of the urban landscape. Both exhibitions run at Camden Arts Centre from 25 September until 29 November 2015 and entry is free.
Refusing to believe in the stability and permanence of our present, Rivers’ films offer intimate insights into alternative ways of life, following those who have removed themselves from an anthropocentric existence. In this exhibition Rivers gathers and reflects on individuals who, whilst geographically remote from one another, all attempt to withdraw into their own modestly constructed utopias. The films suggest endeavours to rehash, rehearse and test out ways of creating, imagining and of being, amidst shifting societal and planetary ecologies. Through the contemplative gaze of the camera, Rivers’ films do not offer a solution, but instead anticipate that one may emerge, giving rise to hope of an alternative future.
The films on show are: What Means Something (2015), a filmic portrait of the painter Rose Wylie; Phantoms of a Libertine (2012), set in the deserted flat of a now departed inhabitant; There Is A Happy Land Further Awaay (2015), filmed in the South Pacific; and Ah, Liberty! (2008) set in a remote hinterland and suggesting the possibility of an existence beyond a capitalist driven society.
The artist-curated exhibition based on the concept of ‘edgelands’ draws together a selection of works that have inspired Rivers’ interest in these borders of society, both physical spaces – the neglected peripheries of the city – and abstractly, where individuals have withdrawn from mainstream culture. Self-taught Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s photographs of the American mid-west outback, sit alongside La Ville Pétrifée by Max Ernst, Catherine Opie’s photographic Freeway series, Robert Smithson’s Tour of Monuments of the Passaic, J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, and others. Together they consider how social distance surfaces in architecture and landscape, the creative potential of the overlooked spaces and beauty in the deserted or disregarded.
Ben Rivers (b. 1972, Somerset) lives and works in London. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes including: FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea; Artangel Open 2013; the inaugural Robert Gardner Film Award, 2012; the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel, 2011; twice shortlisted for the Jarman Award, 2010 and 2012; Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists, 2010. Artist-in-focus screenings and retrospectives include Courtisane Festival; Pesaro International Film Festival; London Film Festival; Tirana Film Festival; Punto de Vista Pamplona; and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. His new Artangel Commission, The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers runs until 31 August 2015.
From 26 July, Ben Rivers will be exploring the illusion of filmmaking in Morocco through multiple film projections set in the Drama Block of Television Centre previously used by the BBC to construct scenery and props for TV drama. The Moroccan Sahara is littered with the legacy of films shot in its dramatic vistas: abandoned sets that reveal the artifice of filmmaking and trigger our recollection of the half-imagined spaces of familiar films from decades past.
The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers is commissioned by Artangel, The Whitworth, Manchester, and the BFI’s Film Fund, with the support of Arts Council England. It was selected through Open by Artangel and BBC Radio 4.
The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers is part of the Artangel Collection, a national initiative to commission and present new film and video work, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.
Filmed in 16mm cinemascope, narratives, locations, and distinct eras of filmmaking all collide: A Distant Episode, the savage 1947 short story set in Morocco by Paul Bowles; behind-the-scenes footage of two other films shot in Morocco by artist Shezad Dawood and filmmaker Oliver Laxe; Bowles’s storytelling muse Mohammed Mrabet playing himself and Laxe abandoning the set of his own film to take up another role.
Layering one uncanny landscape, that of Morocco’s wild Atlas Mountains and much-filmed desert, with another, the iconic London backdrop to BBC drama since 1960,The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers collapses fiction and documentary into a powerful cinematic installation which pushes at the boundaries of storytelling.