James Benning is one of the most important figures in American avant-garde film. In 1971 he made Time and a Half including a 14-second shot of a working class man leaving a Milwaukee factory: in 2010 he slowed it down 133 times stretching the 14 seconds to 31 minutes. In 2009 he filmed trains at the HKL Steelworks in Duisburg collecting slag and pig iron, the shot is 31 minutes in real time. This installation brings together both of these former industrial zones.
James Benning was born in Milwaukee, America in 1942. He returned to the University of Wisconsin in 1972 to take up film studies after having completed his mathematics degree. By the mid-1970s his development had crossed paths with a significant movement in the American avant-garde.
In films like 8 1/2 x 11 (1974), 11 x 14 (1976) and One Way Boogie Woogie (1977), he showed a structural analysis of image, sound, narrative and landscape. Using framed shots Benning conceived a new iconography of the American Midwest. During his New York years (1980-88), topics such as history and memory became central to his films, including American Dreams (1984) and Landscape Suicide (1986).
After his move to California, Benning began a series of experimental documentaries and political essay films, such as North on Evers (1991), Deseret (1995) and Four Corners (1997). And with the California Trilogy (1999-2001), 13 Lakes and Ten Skies (both 2004), he shifts these considerations into a radical new direction altogether: focusing viewer attention on one sole image for several minutes. This focus on immersing in a sense of place, built from long, unedited takes, has continued in more recent work such as Ruhr (2009) and Nightfall (2011). In 2003, Reinhard Wulf made a 90-minute documentary about Benning and his work called James Benning: Circling the Image. Since 1987 he has taught filmmaking at CalArts.
Curated and produced by AV Festival 12. UK Premiere.