A World Rattled of Habit: Films by Ben Rivers (and Karl Kels & Barry Kimm)

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | March 30, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 6pm | Ben Rivers in person!

Ben Rivers, Astika (2006). Image courtesy of the artist.
Ben Rivers, Astika (2006). Image courtesy of the artist.

In the last three years, UK artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers has produced a series of rich, expressive portraits of people living on the wilderness fringes of Europe and the British Isles. Rivers builds a strong bond with his subjects, often living with them for periods of time, and his hand-crafted films are intimate medleys of the rhythms and mossy details that give shape to their lives. This evening Rivers draws upon his days co-programming the renowned Brighton Cinematheque to present his work. TRT: 70 min.


Origin of the Species

UK, 2008, 16mm, 16 min.

A film begun as a portrait of S, a 75 year-old man living in a remote part of Inverness-shire. S has been obsessed with Darwin’s works for much of his life. Since a child he has wondered at life on Earth and though he never became an academic, found in Darwin many answers to his questions. The film images concentrate on the mysterious geography of his world; his garden, from the microcosmic to the grand; the contraptions and inventions he’s made; his isolated patch of land where he has built his house after a life of traveling and working around the world. The soundtrack has S heard discussing his take on life on Earth and humans place upon it. The film attempts to span from the beginnings of the world up to an uncertain future. (BR)

Measurements of Oxford

Barry Kimm, US, 1989, 16mm, 9 min.

The Oxford of the title is a small town in Iowa; the measurements in question are taken on everything but the kitchen sink, from gas pumps to street signs to the townsfolk themselves. Putting aside their midwestern scepticism, the inhabitants humor the filmmaker in his peculiar project, even acting as his cohorts. (New York Public Library)


UK, 2006, 16mm, 8 min.

A portrait of Astika, who lives on an island in Denmark. He has lived in a run down farm house for 15 years and his project has been to let the land around him grow unchecked, but now he has been forced to move out by people who prefer more pristine neighbours. (BR)

Ah, Liberty!

UK, 2008, 16mm, 19 min.

A family’s place in the widerness, somehow outside of time; free-range animals and children, junk and nature, all within the most sublime landscape. The work aims at an idea of freedom, which is reflected in the hand-processed Scope format, but is undercut with a sense of foreboding. There’s no particular story; beginning, middle or end, just fragments of lives lived. (Chicago Underground Film Festival)  Winner of the Tiger Award for Best Short Film, 2008 Rotterdam Film Festival

Prince Hotel

Karl Kels, Germany/US, 1987/2003, 16mm, 8 min.

A portrait of New York’s Bowery and its time-worn occupants. (Goethe-Institut)

A World Rattled of Habit

UK, 2008, 16mm, 10 min.

A day trip to Suffolk, to see my friend Ben and his dad Oleg. (BR)


Ben Rivers is an artist and filmmaker. He lives and works in London. His work has been exhibited around the world and has received numerous awards, most recently the Tiger Award for Short Film, IFF Rotterdam 2008 and Best Experimental Film, Vila do Conde 2008. He has been the recipient of a number of commissions, including a London Artist’s Film and Video Award, for which he made two new works—ORIGIN OF SPECIES and AH, LIBERTY! Recent exhibitions include; “On Overgrown Paths” solo show, Permanent Gallery, Brighton; “Wild Shapes” Cell Project Space, London; “If—People and Places In Recent Film and Video” Bloomberg Space, London; Artist-in-focus screenings in Courtisane Festival, Ghent 2008; Pesaro International Film Festival 2008; London Film Festival 2008 and Punto de Vista, Spain 2009. Together with US artist filmmaker Ben Russell, he toured New Zealand/Australia in July/Aug 2008 with a two-person show “We Can Not Exist In This World Alone.” In 1996, Ben co-founded and since co-managed/programmed Brighton Cinematheque—renowned for screening a unique program of film from its earliest days through to the latest artists’ film and video.


Ben Rivers at the Permanent Gallery

David Berridge interviews Ben Rivers (More Milk Yvette)


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    Conversations at the Edge is a weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    CATE is organized by SAIC's Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and SAIC's Video Data Bank, Conversations at the Edge is a dynamic weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    Programs take place Thursdays at 6pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State / Chicago, IL / 312.846.2600), unless otherwise noted.