What Has Happened Is That Time Has Passed: An Evening with Ben Russell
Date: April 27, 2016
Location: Automata Theater
Address: 504 Chung King Ct, Los Angeles, CA. 90012
Ben Russell in conversation with critic Robert Koehler following the screening!
One of the most singular and unpredictable artists of his generation, Ben Russell has over the course of dozens of films consistently worked to reorient established modes of cinematic expression while training his lens on people and places of underrepresented distinction. Combining experimental ethnography and speculative nonfiction with surrealist imagery and rhythmic overtones, Russell has fashioned a unique corpus which engages all the available senses in a full-tilt push toward transcendence. His two most recent medium-length films, Greetings to the Ancestors (2015) and He Who Eats Children (2016), utilize dream logic and myth-making as narrative markers through which to examine realities both immediate and imagined in remote regions of South Africa and South America, respectively. Tonight’s program bookends these two shapeshifting works with Daumë (2000)––one of Russell's key early films and a spiritual precursor to He Who Eats Children––and a live performance by the filmmaker in which modular synthesizer and audio-responsive 3D emanations are coupled with randomized outtakes from his Garden of Earthly Delights trilogy. ~ Join us for a post-screening reception at General Lee's: 475 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles, CA. 90012
Daumë (200o, 16mm; 7:00)
He Who Eats Children (2016, video; 25:00) –– Los Angeles premiere!
Greetings to the Ancestors (2015, video; 29:00) –– Los Angeles premeire!
The Marvels We Now Enjoy (2015, video; 20:00-30:00) –– Live performance for modular synthesizer, audio-responsive 3D object, and randomized outtakes from the Garden of Earthly Delights trilogy, with text by Levi-Strauss.
About the films:
“One of the strangest films I have ever seen; its characters come and go as if they’re ‘primitives’ posing for the camera, either obeying or fighting an ethnographer’s controlling eye.” - Fred Camper, Chicago Reader
He Who Eats Children (2016)
“...and we Antilleans, we know only too well that––as they say in the islands––the black man has a fear of blue eyes.” - Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks
Greetings to the Ancestors (2015)
Set between Swaziland and South Africa, in a region still struggling with the divisions produced by an apartheid government, Greetings to the Ancestors documents the dream lives of the territory’s inhabitants as the borders of consciousness dissolve and expand. Equal parts documentary, ethnography, and dream cinema, herein is a world whose borders are constantly dematerializing.
The Marvels We Now Enjoy (2015)
Taking its title from a line in Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropique, The Marvels We Now Enjoy is a live performance in conversation with the global(izing) present, one that seeks to create a wholly embodied audio/video convergence via chaos-theory, 3D-modeling, modular synthesis, and a randomized stream of outtakes from a utopian-minded trilogy of films shot between Greece, Malta, South Africa, Swaziland, and Vanuatu.
[One] of the more significant American avant-garde filmmakers working today.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Ben Russell’s field studies of transfiguration invoke the magic of cinema with fearsome lucidity...Structuralist in their conceptual clarity and analogue poetics, the films take ontology by the teeth: Russell’s designs on embodiment require that ideas be performed and the camera taken up as a risk.
Max Goldberg, Cinema Scope
Ben Russell’s long-standing interests in cinema and animism have yielded an eclectic range of works incorporating performance, experimental ethnography, psychedelia, and, most salient, the histories of film and its apparatuses.
Claudia Ise, Artforum
[Russell] has consistently explored ritual and transcendence in various forms...[examining] both the fundamental impenetrability of other people’s psyches, and the fact that ‘the varieties of religious experience’ are comprehensible to others only as a set of signs. At the same time, Russell’s films are engaging with a kind of visceral movement, a phenomenological chiasmus between bodies and forms, that is absolutely irreducible to language.
Michael Sicinski, Keyframe
[Russell] explore[s] a participatory ethnography with both real-life characters and us, the viewers, drawing deeply from the elemental in order to shake us from our viewing habits. Bound by the structures that inevitably dictate our lives, it's easy to forget that the world is vast and ripe with possibilities, and that we should probably attempt a few alternate modes of existence before we leave this Earth behind.
Andrea Picard, Toronto International Film Festival