Ben Russell: Uh-Oh It's Magic
March 11th- April 23rd, 2011
Opening reception: Friday, March 11th, 6-9pm
Artist talk: Thursday, March 31st, 7pm
CHICAGO: For his SOLO exhibition Uh-Oh It’s Magic, filmmaker Ben Russell gathers together seven instances of sound and image that speak to the varying possibilities of belief and mysticism within a global construct. Taking its title from the choral refrain of the Cars’ song Magic (1984), Uh-Oh It’s Magic points towards the persistence of a culturally Western hope/belief in the existence of Magic: a belief-in-belief that employs logic to dismantle difference-as-superstition as quickly as it drops its jaw in the presence of the technologically explicable. From the myth of Icarus to the divination rites of Malian animists, from Mexican cotton candy makers to Vietnamese martial artists, and from Icelandic drowning pools to Abbie Hoffmans’ 1967 levitation of the Pentagon, this exhibition is realized across a multitude of forms - 16mm film loops, auto-repeat records, found photographs, multi-projector installations, prisms, mirrors, heat lamps, desiccants and a transformed non-space that bathes viewers in a delirious chroma-key paint job, effectively making the gallery everywhere and anywhere at once.
In the her essay for the exhibition, Erika Balsom says: “In the art of Ben Russell, the cinema’s paradoxical status as both disinterested document and active producer of magic emerges as a fundamental preoccupation. Moving into the gallery space after an established career in filmmaking has allowed Russell to make use of an expanded array of strategies and media to explore issues he has long addressed: Do we—and should we—believe in what we see? When does the moving image seek to deceive us and when does it promise revelation? Russell imagines a global cartography of sites and sights that challenge rationality. Placing the experience of travel at the center of his practice, the artist charts culturally varying approaches to the otherworldly with the ethnographic tradition never far out of sight.”
Ben Russell is an itinerant photographer, curator, and experimental film/videomaker whose works have screened in spaces ranging from 14th Century Belgian monasteries to 17th Century East Indian Trading Company buildings, police station basements to outdoor punk squats, Japanese cinematheques to Parisian storefronts, and the Sundance Film Festival to the Museum of Modern Art (solo). He has made films about the assassination of Easter Island, the divining powers of Richard Pryor, and the end of the world. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient in 2008, he began The Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois, USA where he currently teaches at The University of Illinois of Chicago.