“Using old 16mm cameras, artist Ben Rivers, who has been nominated for the Jarman Prize and has won a Tiger Award at Rotterdam, creates work from stories of real people, often those who have disconnected from the normal world and taken themselves into wilderness territories. His new long-form work extends his relationship with Jake, a man first encountered in his short film This Is My Land. The title refers to the work Jake did in order to finance his chosen state of existence. He lives alone in a ramshackle house, in the middle of the forest. It’s full of curiosities from a bygone age, including a beloved old gramophone. We see his daily life across the seasons, as he occupies himself going for walks in all weathers, and taking naps in the misty fields and woods. Endlessly resourceful, he builds a raft to fish in a loch. Jake has a tremendous sense of purpose, however eccentric his behaviour seems to us. The presence of the camera is irrelevant to him; he has no desire for human contact, and is completely at home in his environment, the nature around him and his constructed abode. Rivers’ gracefully-constructed film creates an intimate connection with an individual who would otherwise be a complete outsider to us.”—Helen de Witt, BFI
“It did not enter through the eyes, since it has no colour; nor by the ears, since it makes no noise; nor through the nostrils, since it does not mingle with the air… nor by the throat neither, for it cannot be eaten nor drunk. Nor did I discover it by touch, since it is impalpable. I rose above myself and found that the Word was higher still. Curious to explore, I went down into my depths and found in the same way that it was lower still. I looked outside myself and saw that it was outside all that is outside me. I looked within and saw that it was more inward than I. And then I recognized as a truth what I had read: that in it we have Life, Motion and Being.”—St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
“The Narcotic Farm is an hour-long historical documentary that premiered in 2008. Narrated and scored by former inmate Wayne Kramer of the radical 60s rock band the MC5, the film tells the story of this American institution through the voices of the former addicts who spent years locked within its walls. Astonishing, government-produced films and photographs take viewers inside the prison, highlighting its thriving jazz scene and revealing for the first time the experience of prisoners used as test subjects in its world famous drug research program.”—JP Olsen and Luke Walden.
“A privileged look at the deaf community, In the Land of the Deaf (Le Pays des Sourds) is told by those who inhabit it, and not by an unseen narrator explaining the experience through the perspective of the hearing. With eloquence and directness, the participants in Philibert’s film illuminate their world and show how their language is not necessarily a deficit - that their lives and their language, though superficially alien, are just as ‘normal’ as a hearing person’s.”—Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle
“Syndromes and a Century is a poem on screen: a film of ideas and visual tropes that upends conventional narrative expectations, not out of a simple desire to disconcert but to break through the carapace of normality, to give us the knight’s-move away from reality that the Russian formalists said was the prerogative of art. It’s a movie to be compared with the work of Antonioni - or Sergei Parajanov. Perhaps, with its freakiness and scariness in those hospital basement scenes, it is something that might have intrigued Kubrick. Perhaps the best antidote to [our present] gloom is the appearance of films like this one. Profoundly mysterious, erotic, funny, gentle, playful, utterly distinctive, it is the work of the Thai director and installation-artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who now has a claim to be approaching the league of Kiarostami and Haneke, one of modern cinema’s great practitioners.”—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
“The tranquil woods of the Loire Valley embrace the La Borde psychiatric clinic, an asylum in the truest sense of the word, where patients find sanctuary and repose. Patients and staff work together in rehearsals and preparations for their annual summer play. This year, they perform the modernist, absurdist classic, “Operette,” by Witold Gombrowicz, whose dialogue is more nonsensical than that of the patients themselves.”—Unknown
“I was returning from the railroad station. In my ears, there remained chugs and bursts of steam from a departing train. Somebody cries in laughter, a whistle, the station bell, the clanking locomotive…whispers, shouts, farewells. And walking away I thought I need to find a machine not only to describe but to register, to photograph these sounds. Otherwise, one cannot organize or assemble them. They fly like time. Perhaps a camera? That records the visual. But to organize the visual world and not the audible world? Is this the answer?”—Dziga Vertov (AKA David Arkadevich Kaufman), 1924
“In achieving the aims of baroque art, photography has freed the plastic arts from their obsession with likeness. Painting was forced, as it turned out, to offer us illusion and this illusion was reckoned sufficient unto art. Photography and the cinema on the other hand are discoveries that satisfy, once and for all and in its very essence, our obsession with realism.”—André Bazin
“People don’t become inured to what they are shown - if that’s the right way to describe what happens - because of the quantity of images dumped on them. It is passivity that dulls feeling. The states described as apathy, moral or emotional anesthesia, are full of feelings; the feelings are rage and frustration.”—Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
“If this “journal” does not mention the war, it is first of all because this is not a “journal”. It is my little secret ruse for preserving joys or my happiness, my immense happiness, all perfumed with inexplicable things. And at the same time it is protection. Protection against “too much happiness”.”—Jacques-Henri Lartigue
“Style depends largely on surface components such as composition and contrast, on aesthetics, on a consistent eye, sometimes on gimmicks. Vision probably draws as much from the life as from the eye, from the heart as well as the brain, from the complexities of personality more than from ingenuity or mastery of craft.”—Vicki Goldberg, Light Matters
“When hierarchies crashed, so did the concept of standards of quality. Although the philosophical points that there are no eternal verities in a diverse world and that no individual has the key to some universal rating standard are hard to argue with, the abandonment of ideas and judgements of quality still strikes me as a disaster. When ideas of good and bad abdicate, disorder reigns and trash holds court.”—Vicki Goldberg, Light Matters
(Still) Out of Africa, but it will have me soon...
"Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams." - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Part 1
"Nothing that is wholly evil can exist." - Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274
Contextualized in the choices of Khmer Rouge executioner Comrade Duch, our judgments and responses to them and depicted in the ambiguous and darkened interior of the scene of his most horrendous war crimes, The Necessary Tension of Possibility explores the ever-present tension between darkness and light.
The state of conflict between forces of good and evil manifest in the human psyche presents itself most strikingly in the context of the most abhorrent of acts – and to understand the possibility of the existence of hope amidst overwhelming death, destruction and suffering is in fact to experience a glimpse of the very faith that exists in evil.
During the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979, a former high school in Phnom Penh was transformed into a prison commonly known as S-21. As many as 20,000 men, women and children passed through its gates before being brutally tortured and killed under the orders of its chief executioner, Comrade Duch.
Thirty-one years later Duch, or Kang Kek Iew, now 68, having worked as a school teacher in the province of Battambang and converted to Christianity, has stood on trial and is awaiting sentence. A shadow of evil hangs over the former prison. The potential for good though is now discernible and the reconciliation the former executioner seeks is now a possibility.
The focus of each of the images in this exhibition, the doorway, as a point of entry and exit, acts both as a point of access to the ‘outside’, to the unknown, though also as a tool of constraint, a barrier to that very place. The viewer is separated from the light (reconciliation, hope) and held within the darkness (remembrance); at once constrained within the blackness and yet drawn into the unknown possibilities of the light. The tension is further underscored through the contrast between the ordered, ridged mathematical forms within the building and the ragged, crude lines of destruction and the madness scarred upon its surfaces.
The prison, formerly a French Lycée, now functions as a museum of remembrance, the embodiment not only of a regime descended into insanity, but also of the potential for renewal born from the darkest of acts. The images don’t explicitly show these acts, though they exist in the darkness of memories and the corners of the imagination – a place from which we, too, desire relief, respite, an exit.
"Man is the greatest enemy of man. Oppression, injustice, contempt, contumely, violence, sedition, war, calumny, treachery, fraud; by these they mutually torment each other."
David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 1711-1776
"They see only their own shadows or the shadows of one another, which fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave.”
Plato, 428-348 BC
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."