Ben Rivers

London, United Kingdom
APT London
Artist Social Media
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  • Ahead of the third Antwerp Art Weekend, a guide to the best shows across the city.

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  • The Renaissance Society presents the first solo US exhibition by Ben Rivers, a London-based artist who primarily works in moving image.

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  • The heart of a thundercloud, the versatility of László Moholy-Nagy and the last scientist on Earth: the city's best current shows.

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  • EXPO Chicago’s fifth edition is currently on view until Sunday.

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  • 10 Exhibitions Opening This Week

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  • Newcomers to James Richards’s work might consider his films as sphinxes wrapped in enigmas.

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  • The highlights of the city’s summer shows.

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  • At the 13th edition of Frieze, Ken Kagami is drawing punters’ genitals in just 30 seconds – and there are six ‘smart bedrooms’ if art-browsers need a nap.

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  • In the middle of Battersea Park, where humans once hunted woolly mammoths on frozen boglands, Pump House Gallery has become a kind of prehistoric encampment. During The First Humans, the gallery has been filled with primitive-looking artefacts and also primeval geological features. But far from being ancient, everything has been made very recently by artists.

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Ben Rivers (1972, Somerset, England) lives and works in London. As his website simply states, he ‘makes films’. Using a combination of 16mm black and white and colour film, and sometimes out-of-date stock, Rivers' works can trick us into thinking we’re looking at archival footage, which is often enhanced by what the films shows us. Working with this old-school technology, the artist’s films almost by default explore the constraints and boundaries of the chosen medium and material. The length of a film spool thus determines the maximum length of a shot. The specific tone and hue of the colours we see seem to place the narrative in an era that could be just as much a distant future as a time long-gone. And accidental exposure of the film stock to light – causing odd flashes and white outs – have become part of the work instead of edited out.
Conceptually Rivers' work is engaged with situations that sit at the edges of contemporary life and sometimes seem to exist outside modern living altogether. Although they depict real-life subjects and environments, Rivers' films cannot be simply classified as primarily documentary or ethnographic. The Origin of Species (2008), for example, follows a recluse in his daily life in the woods in Invernesshire in the Scottish Highlands, while the voiceover consists of the man’s musings about Darwin’s theories, which he’s studied for over twenty years. The result is a poetic, almost otherworldly narrative.
Rivers’ latest work, Slow Action (2010), could be described as a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. It consists of four 16mm works that sit somewhere between documentary, ethnographic study and fiction. The work continues Rivers’ exploration of curious and extraordinary environments, and in this case applies the idea of island biogeography – the study of how species and eco-systems evolve differently when they are isolated and surrounded by unsuitable habitat – to a conception of what the earth might be like in a few hundred years’ time.

Recent solo exhibitions of Rivers’ work include"Renaissance Society", Chicago, (2016); "Islands", Kunstverein in Hamburg, (2016); "The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers"; The Whitworth, Manchester, (2016); Solo Exhibition, Camden Arts Centre, London, (2015); “Slow Action” at Matt’s Gallery, London (2011) and “Origin of the Species” at Kate MacGarry, London (2009). His work is also regularly screened at film festivals. Recent examples include “Ben Rivers”, IndieLisboa (2010), “The Coming Race” in Subjective Projections, Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld (2009) “The House and The Woods,” Punto de Vista, Pamplona (2009), “Ben Rivers at the Edge of the World,” London Film Festival, “A World Rattled of Habit”, LA Film Forum, “This Is My Land,” Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco and “Omaggio a Ben Rivers,” Pesaro International Film festival, Italy. Recent group projects include “Practical Truths,” Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2009), “Out Of This World,” St Paul St Gallery, Auckland (2009) “An Entangled Bank,” Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2009), “For Robert Frank,” National Gallery of Art, Washington (2009) and “Figuring Landscapes,” ArtSway, New Forest and touring (2009).

Ben Rivers is represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery, London.

For additional information about this artist, visit Mutual Art