STUK — House for Dance, Image & Sound

Ben Rivers, Now, at Last! (still). Courtesy of the artist.

October 9, 2023
Ben Rivers
October 11–December 17, 2023
Opening: October 11, 6pm
STUK — House for Dance, Image & Sound
Naamsestraat 96
3000 Leuven
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Curator: Karen Verschooren, STUK

STUK is delighted to present the work of contemporary visual artist and experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers (b. 1972). In his first solo exhibition in Belgium, Rivers shares his fascination with time, presenting four recent film installations: Now, at Last! (2018), Ghost Strata (2019), Ijen/London (2022) and The Minotaur (2023). A selection of photographs, drawings and watercolours complete the exhibition, plunging us deeper into the striking imagery of Rivers’ otherworldly times and spaces. 

The exhibition opens with a portrait of Cherry, a sloth filmed at the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Costa Rica. Now, at Last! immerses you in the temporality of this beautiful animal to the soundtrack of the jungle and the musings on love and time in Unchained Melody. As writer and curator Filipa Ramos says accurately: “who needs speed when time can do so much.”  

Also interrogating the nature of time, and how cinema can shape our conceptions of past and present realities is the journal-like collage film Ghost Strata. The work borrows its title from a specific geological phenomenon where missing elements from within the rock strata, despite their absence, offer hints of what was once there. Divided into the 12 months of the year, and charting the personal movements of Rivers across the globe, the film explores the differing scales of impact that humanity’s presence has on the earth in the past, present and into the future.

Whilst filmed in the present, the landscape of Ijen/London projects us into a post-apocalyptic future devoid of human presence but not of life. On the soundtrack, we hear Herbert Read’s reading of his poem The Autumn of the World which contemplates a devastated world of chaos and decay, ‘blood-flecked clouds’ and ‘vermilioned vastness’.

Opening with a Menorcan folk song about a man riding a donkey, then falling off, The Minotaur tells the tale of the young Minotaur and his failed attempts to befriend children his age. Filmed around an abandoned and transformed quarry on the island of Menorca, the work was inspired by experimental filmmaker Bruce Baillie’s love of mythology, silent film storytelling, sunlight and movement, and captures the energy of both the site as well as the young cast running around in it. The Minotaur is the first chapter of a longer film, made in a world with only children, going about their lives, rituals, game playing and journeys. Something to look forward to…

The exhibition IT’S ABOUT TIME is part of a series of solo exhibitions in STUK by contemporary visual artists who have a particular affinity for the moving image. Previous exhibitions in this series include Helen Cammock: Beneath the Surface of Skin; Mircea Cantor: Am I really free?; Angela Washko: Point of View; Sebastián Díaz Morales: Talk with Dust; Mika Taanila: The End; Nevin Aladağ: Rollin’; Omer Fast: Appendix; Joachim Koester: Maybe this act, this work, this thing; Emre Hüner—Neochronophobiq; John Akomfrah: Auto Da Fé; and Bjørn Melhus: The Theory of Freedom.

Ben Rivers: b. 1972, Somerset, United Kingdom

In his practice the artist and experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers treads the line between fiction and non-fiction. Fusing the mystical and the mundane, the cosmic and the personal, mythology and uncertainty, he creates narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds. His films range from themes exploring unknown wilderness territories to candid and intimate portrayals of real-life subjects. His prolific practice, resulting in more than 40 films thus far, has been awarded with a.o. the EYE Art Film Prize (2016), the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at the 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea, the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42 and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists (2010). He was twice the winner of the Tiger Award at Rotterdam Film Festival, and was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University in 2015. His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions in Jeu de Paume, Paris; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo; Hestercombe Gallery, Somerset; Triennale, Milan; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Kunstverein of Hamburg and Camden Arts Centre, London. He was commissioned by Artangel to make Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, shown at the former BBC Television Centre and The Whitworth Museum, Manchester. He co-ran/programmed Brighton Cinematheque from 1996 to 2006. Ben Rivers currently lives and works in London, and is represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery, London.

Works in the exhibition
Now, at Last! 2018. 40 minutes, 16mm colour film transferred to digital, sound.

Ghost Strata, 2019. 45 minutes, B&W/Colour, sound: stereo. Ratio: 4:3. Available format/s: 16mm film, HD Video. Original format: 16mm film.

Ijen/London, 2022. 6: 42 minutes, colour, sound: Mono. Ratio: 16:9. Available format/s: HD Digital File. Original format: Super-16mm film.

The Minotaur, 2023. Single-channel, 12:41 minutes. Ratio: 16:9. 

Cherry #1, 2019. Giclée on Hahnemühle Pearl, digital print, 51.5 x 57.8 cm (framed), edition of 5.

Cherry #2, 2019. Giclée on Hahnemühle Pearl, digital print, 51.5 x 57.8 cm (framed), edition of 5.

After London, #1: #20, 2022. Watercolours, 21 x 29.7 cm.

Untitled, 2022. Pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.

All works courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry Gallery, London.

Please contact Frank Geypens at frank.geypens [​at​] for press inquiries or Karen Verschooren at karen.verschooren [​at​] for further inquiries regarding the exhibition.

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STUK — House for Dance, Image & Sound
October 9, 2023

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