Ben Rivers is a filmmaker and artist whose work has been shown in many festivals and galleries around the world. His films, which blur the boundaries between documentary and fiction, often take outsiders - people who have separated themselves from mainstream society - as their subjects. His work obliquely explores themes such as 'wilderness', or, as is the case in the film that is being shown in this exhibition, 'freedom'.
Using old technology, normally 16mm film shot on a Bolex camera and then developed at home, Rivers creates off-beat narratives that depict and imagine ways of life in marginal or overlooked worlds. Sometimes, when it is shown in art galleries, his work incorporates elements of installation.
Ah, Liberty!, a 20 minute black and white film made in 2008, shows aspects of the lives of the children of a family leading an unconventional existence in the Scottish highlands. It will be screened in a hut that has been specially created for this exhibition.
A new publication accompanies the exhibition.
The Douglas Hyde Gallery gratefully thanks the artist, Kate MacGarry, David Leister, and LUX for their help in realizing this project.
Ben Rivers has chosen some films, including a few of his own, to be shown as a context for Ah, Liberty!.
Thursday, April 18, at 1pm and 5pm
Perfumed Nightmare by Kidlat Tahimik
Philippines / 1997 / 93 minutes / Colour / DVD
This bizarre, crudely made, and very interesting film documents the experiences of a young Filipino growing up in a rural community with an ever-increasing Western presence. It depicts his struggle to adapt to western customs and, unable to return to his idealised past, he endeavours to find his own way in the world.
Thursday, April 25, at 1pm and 5pm
A World Rattled Of Habit by Ben Rivers
UK / 2008 / 10 minutes / Colour / HD digital
A friend of the artist, Oleg Meschko, describes how he has dealt with the difficulties of the various countries he has lived in, distancing himself from the ideals of ‘normal people’.
Zéro de Conduite by Jean Vigo
France / 1933 / 41 minutes / Black & white / DVD
In this classic film rebellious young boys at a repressive French boarding school plot and execute a revolt against their teachers and take over the school.
Thursday, May 2, at 1pm and 5pm
I Know Where I’m Going by Ben Rivers
UK / 2009 / 29 minutes / Colour / HD digital
This film follows a journey taken by Rivers with the intention of getting lost, following false leads, and trusting in the laws of serendipity, while travelling through an almost abandoned and devastated Britain.
Slow Action by Ben Rivers
UK / 2011 / 45 minutes / Colour and black & white / HD digital
A post-apocalyptic science fiction film which exists somewhere between documentary, ethnographic study and fiction, Slow Action explores four different island locations: a volcanic beach resort, a deserted mining community, a tiny archipelago, and a version of a future Somerset following the rise of sea-levels.
Thursday, May 9, at 1pm and 5pm
Portrait of Ga by Margaret Tait
UK / 1952 / 4 minutes / Colour / 16mm
A portrait of the filmmaker’s mother, made in her birthplace of Orkney.
Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait by Margaret Tait
UK / 1964 / 9 minutes / Black & white / 16mm
A tribute to the Scottish poet, filmed reading from his work in his personal environment.
Aerial by Margaret Tait
UK / 1974 / 4 minutes / Colour / 16mm
A short film of elemental imagery: air, water, snow, earth, fire, and smoke.
Place of Work by Margaret Tait
UK / 1976 / 32 minutes / Colour / 16mm
A close study of Tait’s childhood home and garden in Orkney, which was used as her workplace long after the family had gone. This film was made shortly before the local authority reclaimed the house for demolition.
Tailpiece by Margaret Tait
UK / 1976 / 10 minutes / Black & white / 16mm
The film was conceived as a coda to Place of Work, and shows the now empty rooms of Tait’s former family home.
Land Makar by Margaret Tait
UK / 1981 / 32 minutes / Colour and black & white / 16mm
This film follows Mary Sinclair through the changing seasons as she tends to a croft in Orkney. The croft is worked in the old way, and the film illustrates Sinclair’s connection to the landscape and its traditions. ‘Makar’ is a Scots word for ‘poet’.
Thursday, May 16, at 1pm and 5pm
This Is My Land by Ben Rivers
UK / 2006 / 14 minutes / Black & white / 16mm
A portrait of Jake Williams and his isolated and self-sufficient life in rural Scotland. From Jake’s point of view this isn’t a nostalgic yearning for the past but the approach of a very real future.
The Coming Race by Ben Rivers
UK / 2006 / 5 minutes / Black & white / 16mm
Thousands of people are shown climbing a rocky mountain in a vague, mysterious and unsettling pilgrimage, fraught with unknown intentions.
Lord of the Flies by Peter Brook
UK / 1963 / 92 minutes / Black & white / DVD
An adaptation of William Golding’s novel of the same name in which a group of schoolboys are stranded on a remote island. Without a sense of authority and order, the children descend into a primitive state of savagery.
The Ben Rivers and Margaret Tait films are shown courtesy of LUX - Artists’ Moving Image. Zéro de Conduite and Lord of the Flies are shown by arrangement with BFI, London. Perfumed Nightmare is shown with kind permission from Kidlat Tahimik.