Dissertation // Ben Rivers Exhibition

We were asked to all meet on Wednesday afternoon at the Camden Arts Centre to go and look at an exhibition by artist Ben Rivers, Earth Needs More Magicians. Rivers works mainly with film and photography and it was a small collection of old and new films from the artist as well as a small exhibition curated by Rivers, Edgelands, including works by 10 different artists. 

Not having looked up anything about the exhibitions before going I went in with an open mind, I often don’t read up too much about exhibitions I go to look at, usually just enough to know whether it is something I would be interested in seeing but sometimes I don’t know anything but the name and perhaps the words of someone else’s recommendation and so I go in with a clear head and open mind and I don’t have any expectations.

The first room I went into there was a big, dark space with a large screen and a wall covered in corrugated iron. The film, There Is A Happy Land Further Awaay (2015), to me was a kind of loose documentary style with long, still shots of different locations of an island with an informal narrating dialogue over the top. I liked this one, it seemed simple and peaceful. The woman talking over the top of the film was obviously not a native English speaker and you could hear her talking with Rivers as he instructs her on how to pronounce words and directs her to read out the excerpt again or to keep going. The film was about 10 minutes long.

There was a small room connected to the previous one with a projected film on a small screen, Ah, Liberty! (2008). It felt like a home movie from the 20th century. The subject matter was mainly children playing in the countryside. The only thing that suggested it wasn’t as old as it looked and sounded was the model of car shown in the film. I didn’t watch the whole film as it felt like it contained short clips of the same kind of subject matter.

Those two rooms connect to the Edgelands exhibition which consisted of a 3D model, paintings and photography. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at these but they all seemed to be themed around life and different kind of settings.

There were two more films, one, Phantoms of a Libertine (2012), was like a collection of visual research, photographs of titles or names scribbled on bits of paper and photographs with very harsh, loud, inconsistent noise blaring in the background. I really didn’t like this one and couldn’t sit through more than a couple minutes of it as the noise was distracting. The last film, What Means Something (2015),  was a biographical film of artist Rose Wylie and showed her painting in her studio, clips of her reading from a book as well as just clips of reference or research pictures. The room was set up with two floating screens hanging from the ceiling in a spacious room with two speakers either side of the room. This setting was really cool, they were illuminated by the projected films while the room was dark,  it made the screens look like holograms or floating screens. I liked this film as well, although long it was interesting to watch the artist work and her surroundings of where she perhaps lives and works. 

Overall, I thought it was very mismatched and none of them films linked to each other in any way, even the styles of them were different. They didn’t seem to fit together well as an exhibition and it didn’t flow which may have been the intention.


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