Conversations at the Edge

James Benning: Twenty Cigarettes

Posted on | April 16, 2012 | No Comments

April 19, 6:00 p.m. | James Benning in person!

James Benning, Twenty Cigarettes (2011). Courtesy the artist.

Celebrated for his minimal, monumental landscape studies, James Benning turns to the intimacy of the portrait in his latest film, Twenty Cigarettes. Referencing Warhol’s screen tests, 1930’s Hollywood glamour, and the disappearing cigarette break, the film captures 20 of Benning’s friends (including filmmaker Sharon Lockhart, cultural theorist Dick Hebdige, and book editor Janet Jenkins) satiating their smoke cravings. Each shot’s length is determined by the time it takes each subject to smoke a cigarette, and over the course of the film a dynamic range of personalities emerges out of an array of physical characteristics, distinctive settings, and personal relationships to the camera. 2011, USA, HDCAM, 99 minutes + discussion.

JAMES BENNING’S (b. 1942, Milwaukee) filmic meditations on the social and political dimensions of American landscapes have played a vital role in history of experimental film. His films have screened internationally at festivals and other institutions, including the Vienna International Film Festival; London Film Festival; Sundance, Rotterdam; International Forum des Jungen Films, Berlin; Image Forum, Japan; Los Angeles Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center; Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. In addition to filmmaking, Benning is a professor at the California Institute of the Arts, and has taught at Northwestern University, Bard College, University of Wisconsin, University of Oklahoma, and the University of California–San Diego.

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