IT IS HERE/ THIS WILL LAST FOREVER
A solo exhibition with Ben Russell
At DE APPEL, Amsterdam
This solo exhibition–the first by the artist in the Netherlands–presents recent works that contend with concepts of utopia and dystopia through observation and sensation.
Good Luck (2017), stages Russell’s structural, vibrant, and multi-sensory approach to ethnographic cinema in fragmented physical space—offering a dynamic comparative portrait of natural resource excavation. The film captures extraction in two different parts of the world, often focusing in on the faces, movements, and gestures of men who do the back-breaking work. One section takes place in an underground state-owned industrial copper mine in Bor, Serbia, and the other portrays an illegal gold mine in the jungle of the Brokopondo District in Suriname.
n Serbia, the jarring noise of exploding rock acts as an ever-present backdrop for conversations with mine workers; in Surinam the machinic sounds of above-ground extraction mix with field sounds from the surrounding jungle. These pieces are counter-posed by a single channel featuring silent and black-and-white portraits, and a series of patiently captured interviews. Together the parts form a synthesis of contemporary labor, masculinity, and material and social precarity in these typically concealed environments, joining them together in what Russell calls “the human foundation of capital.” This presentation foregrounds the phenomenological attributes of the piece, placing the viewer’s physicality in relation to the film’s portraiture, and highlighting the effects of haptic sound on experience.
Accompanying the installation, the artist has created a sculptural analogue to process and portraiture, Good Luck (Echo) that turns a sheet of copper into a resonant, speaking subject.
IT IS HERE/THIS WILL LAST FOREVER also features Russell’s short film, Atlantis (2014). Shot on the island of Malta, the film unfolds in a series of staged and observational sequences, with references to Plato, science fiction, and Thomas More’s Utopia. These are set to a complex soundtrack mixing a live-recorded folk ensemble, a marching band, noise music, and other found sounds. Through these elements, the film presents itself as an unorthodox documentary of a mythical place, and one take on everyday utopia.
The two filmic works join to constellate an imperfect picture of living dystopias and imagined utopias, rendering our current world a place beyond the reach of myth, and searching for deep real and imaginary change.