Ben Rivers

It's About Time

“I would advise a good deal of um, of clear observation as you can of what the environment seems to be, and what you are, realising first that these things are not separate. But observe…Observe as much as you can what is going on here. And then…let your mind…leap in imaginative ways, in terms of what the future may hold, and so on. And try to um… introduce then those changes that appear to be necessary in order that the future, instead of being unendurable, will be enjoyable.” John Cage

British artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers shares his fascination for time in his first exhibition in Belgium presenting four of his recent film installations: Now, at Last! (2018), Ghost Strata (2019), Ijen/London (2022) and The Minotaur (2023). A selection of photographs, drawings and watercolours complete the exhibition, plunging us deeper into the striking imagery of Rivers’ otherworldly times and spaces.

The exhibition opens with a portrait of Cherry, a sloth filmed at the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Costa Rica. Now, at Last! immerses you in the temporality of this beautiful animal to the soundtrack of the jungle and the musings on love and time in Unchained Melody. As writer and curator Filipa Ramos says accurately: ‘who needs speed when time can do so much.’

Also interrogating the nature of time, and how cinema can shape our conceptions of past and present realities is the journal-like collage film Ghost Strata. The work borrows its title from a specific geological phenomenon where missing elements from within the rock strata, despite their absence, offer hints of what was once there. Divided into the 12 months of the year, and charting the personal movements of Rivers across the globe, the film explores the differing scales of impact that humanity’s presence has on the earth in the past, present and into the future.

Whilst filmed in the present, the landscape of Ijen/London projects us into a post-apocalyptic future devoid of human presence but not of life. On the soundtrack, we hear Herbert Read’s reading of his poem The Autumn of the World which contemplates a devastated world of chaos and decay, “blood-flecked clouds” and “vermilioned vastness”.

Opening with a Menorcan folk song about a man riding a donkey, then falling off, The Minotaur tells the tale of the young Minotaur and his failed attempts to befriend children his age. Filmed around an abandoned and transformed quarry on the island of Menorca, the work was inspired by experimental filmmaker Bruce Baillie’s love of mythology, silent film storytelling, sunlight and movement, and captures the energy of both the site as well as the young cast running around in it. The Minotaur is the first chapter of a longer film, made in a world with only children, going about their lives, rituals, game playing and journeys. Something to look forward to…

Curator: Karen Verschooren

Get in the mood with installation shots by Kristof Vrancken and pictures of the opening night by Joeri Thiry - the full album can be found here.

11 OCT - 10 DEC
FREE no reservation required

WO 11 OCT — 18:00
In the presence of the artist
More about the artist talk

Mo - Tu: closed
We - Th: 14:00 - 22:00
Fr- Su: 14:00 - 18:00

Th 16 - Sa 18.11: 14:00 - 22:00
Su 19.11: 14:00 - 18:00

Th 07.12 14:00 - 22:00
Fr 08.12 14:00 - 21:30
Sa 09.12: 14:00 - 20:00
Su 10.12: 14:00 - 18:00
Weo 13/12: 14:00 - 22:00
Th 14/12: 14:00 - 23:00
Fr 15/12: 14:00 - 22:00
Sa 16/12: 14:00 - 22:00
Su 17/12: 14:00 - 18:00

CLOSED on Nov 1, 2023

Group visits (in the form of a guided tour or with a short introduction) are possible outside the regular opening hours on weekdays. Please contact rondleiding@stuk.be for more information.

The International Short Film Festival Leuven, taking place from 24 November to 2 December in STUK, also focuses on Ben Rivers. They show a selection of three of his short films, including The Hunchback, which won the Jury Award for best European Short Film at the 2016 festival.

(°1972, Somerset, UK)

In his practice the artist and experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers treads the line between fiction and non-fiction. Fusing the mystical and the mundane, the cosmic and the personal, mythology and uncertainty, he creates narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds. His films range from themes exploring unknown wilderness territories to candid and intimate portrayals of real-life subjects.

His prolific practice, resulting into more than 40 films thus far, has been awarded with a.o. the EYE Art Film Prize (2016), the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at the 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea, the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42 and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists (2010). He was twice the winner of the Tiger Award at Rotterdam Film Festival, and was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University in 2015.

His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions in Jeu de Paume, Paris; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo; Hestercombe Gallery, Somerset; Triennale, Milan; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Kunstverein of Hamburg and Camden Arts Centre, London. He was commissioned by Artangel to make Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, shown at the former BBC Television Centre and The Whitworth Museum, Manchester. He co-ran/programmed Brighton Cinematheque from 1996 to 2006. Ben Rivers currently lives and works in London, and is represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery, London.

Works in the exhibition:

Now, at Last!
2018, 40 min, 16mm colour film transferred to digital, sound
Commissioned by 33 Bienal São Paulo

Ghost Strata
2019, 45 mins, B&W/Colour, Sound: Stereo, Ratio: 4:3, Available Format/s: 16mm film, HD Video, Original Format: 16mm film

2022, 6 mins, |42 Seconds, Colour, Sound: Mono, Ratio: 16:9, Available Format/s: HD Digital File, Original Format: Super-16mm Film

The Minotaur
2023, single-channel, 12:41, 16:9

All works courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry Gallery, London
Wed 11 Oct 2023 18:00 - Sun 17 Dec 2023 18:00


STUK Expozaal


FREE, no reservation required