12 x 12 Artist Talk: Ben Russell

Free With Admission
  • Edlis Neeson Theater
    First Floor, Accessible via the Griffin Entrance on Pearson Street
    220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Featured image

Ben Russell, still from Black and White Trypps Number Four, 2008. 16 mm film; 10 minutes, 30 seconds
Courtesy of the artist


From early cinema to psychedelic mind-melt, ethnographic study to hand-processed portrait, and occult attraction to aquatic flicker film, this is a media map of analog influence that locates curatorial practice as a critical component to art-making today.
—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 (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