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12 x 12 Artist Talk: Ben Russell


As part of his UBS 12 x 12 artist's talk, Ben Russell presents "The Artist's Talk as Illustrated by a Selection of Moving Images," which features films from his past-curated programs in order to expand on themes that lie within his newest work, Trypps #7 (Badlands).


Descriptions written by the artist unless otherwise noted

  • The Red Spectre by Ferdinand Zecca
  • (7 min, 16 mm, 1903)

A dazzling hand-colored black-and-white film from the Pathé studios at the turn of the century. In a strange grotto deep in the bowels of the earth a coffin uprights itself, dances, and opens to reveal a demonic magician with skeletal face, horns, and cape. He wraps two women {bio: (who appear to be in a trance) in fabric, levitates them, and causes them to burst into flames and disappear.

  • Invocation of My Demon Brother by Kenneth Anger
  • (11 min, 16 mm, 1969)}

A mind-bending collage of sonic terror and subversion and fast-paced ritual ambiance founded in the union of the circle and the swastika, a swirling power source of solar energy. Mick Jagger contributes a suitably eerie soundtrack with a newly acquired synthesizer.

  • Children’s Magical Death by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon
  • (7 min, 16 mm, 1974)

Pretending to be shamans, a group of young Yanamano boys imitates their fathers, blowing ashes into each other’s noses and chanting to the hekura spirits.

  • Marsa Abu Galawa by Gerard Holthuis
  • (13 min, 35 mm, 2004)

An impression of the underwater world in the Red Sea. The film is a bombardment of images and features the music Abdel Basset Hamouda, an Egyptian performer. The structure of the film is based on the so-called "flicker films" in which the unconscious experience of the images is much more important than the actual images.

  • This Is My Land by Ben Rivers
  • (14 min, 16 mm, 2006)

A portrait of Jake Williams, who lives alone within miles of forest in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Jake always has many jobs on at any one time, finds a use for everything, is an expert mandolin player, and has compost heaps going back many years. He has a different sense of time to most people in the 21st century, which is explicitly expressed in his idea for creating hedges by putting up bird feeders.

  • My Name is Oona by Gunvor Nelson
  • (9 min, 16 mm, 1969)

MY NAME IS OONA captures in haunting, intensely lyrical images fragments of the coming to consciousness of a child girl. A series of extremely brief flashes of her moving through night-lit space or woods in sensuous negative, separated by rapid fades into blackness, burst upon us like a fairy-tale princess, with a late sun only partially outlining her and the animal in silvery filigree against the encroaching darkness; one of the most perfect recent examples of poetic cinema. Throughout the entire film, the girl, compulsively and as if in awe, repeats her name, until it becomes a magic incantation of self-realization.

—Amos Vogel, The Village Voice