Twenty Cigarettes

James Benning: New Work

November 16 to 19, 2011


The Film Museum is proud to present a series of new works, including four world premieres, by U.S. filmmaker James Benning. As part of the program, two of his iconic films from the 1980s, American Dreams and Landscape Suicide, will also be shown. Both were recently restored by the Film Museum. The launch of two new publications caps this tribute to the artist: a 2-Disc DVD from the Edition Filmmuseum (prelude to an extensive edition of his works on DVD) as well as a book, edited by Julie Ault, on Benning’s Two Cabins project.
When the Film Museum presented a retrospective and a monograph on James Benning in the fall of 2007, few would have guessed that the American master of "landscape film" would soon – after nearly four decades of 16mm work – subscribe to a new medium. Digital High-Definition has allowed him to become even more autonomous than before, while also increasing his productivity. With Ruhr (2009), his first "HD film" and his first work made outside the U.S., Benning demonstrated that he has lost neither his interest in (industrial) landscapes, nor his tenacity in striving for the perfect long take. In the most subtle way, however, the new options of image manipulation offered by the digital medium also come into view. His next film, Twenty Cigarettes, opens a new line of work in Benning's oeuvre: the portrait. The facial expressions and gestures of twenty smokers, fellow artists and acquaintances, are studied consecutively, always for the "length of a cigarette."
From this gallery of expressive "screen tests" (in the Warholian sense), very different paths lead to the four recent workswhich are receiving their premieres at the Film Museum. Faces is Benning's much talked- about "remake" of the eponymous John Cassavetes masterpiece. Even more than the 1968 original, this is literally a film about faces, as well as unexpected venture into the world of “found footage” filmmaking. This also applies to the YouTube Trilogy, an eerie collection of materials from the world’s largest moving image archive: “The film mirrors what is out there, and what is looked at." (James Benning)
small roads and Two Cabins, in turn, are films that connect directly to Benning's "classic" obsessions. small roads, which took two years to complete, moves from the powerful trains in Benning’s RR (2007) to even more remote hinterlands of the U.S. and to those back roads only sporadically visited by vehicles or animals. In the framework of an illustrated lecture on November 17, James Benning will present his major art work, book publication, and film, Two Cabins, which revolves around two American loners – the most cherished and the most reviled – and their concepts of freedom: Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski. 
The filmmaker will be present throughout the series and participate in several Q & As with the audience. The new DVD edition and the publication "(FC) Two Cabins by JB" (ed. Julie Ault, A.R.T. Press, New York 2011) will be launched on November 16 and 17. The program is presented in the framework of – and supported by – the Vienna Art Week.
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