John Hurrell – 17 November, 2015
In this Artspace presentation, David Bennedict shows two videos about global food consumption. One ('The Bed that Eats') is a short movie of about six minutes, and the other ('Toilets Not Temples') is a much longer, more ambitious video that is a collaboration with David Leonard. The first is entertaining and funny and keeps you longing for more; the second uses multiple sites and several actors, is rambling and repetitive - and needs a good edit.
Will Benedict and David Leonard
Moving-Non-Moving Images Lab
6 November - 5 December 2015
Will Benedict is an American artist and curator who lives in Paris and who has studied painting and filmmaking in Los Angeles and Frankfurt. In this Artspace presentation (part of NEW HORIZONS, the summer programme) he shows two videos about global food consumption. One (THE BED THAT EATS) is a short movie of about six minutes, and the other (Toilets Not Temples) is a much longer, more ambitious video that is a collaboration with David Leonard. The first is entertaining and funny and keeps you longing for more; the second uses multiple sites and several actors, is rambling and repetitive - and needs a good edit.
THE BED THAT EATS (2015) features a singing and eating divan with a mouth in its side. It’s mumbling whacked-out vocals and music come from the post-industrial noise band Stare Case (John Olson and Nate Young), and seem satirical in their incoherence. The film has a nice long tracking shot (with a nice long bed) and the elegantly grey divan/table (with bulbous pillows) is displayed covered with a dubious array of fast food and wine.
The bed, understanably though, is unhappy, and repeatedly sings in a lugubrious, barely audible voice, “I’ve got a bad habit, I feel so bad… it’s painful… sad…hateful,” as if suffering from indigestion. Its mouth drips disgusting food particles as it moans and rasps, its presence a reference to the wealthy elite’s avaricious and wasteful consumption of resources.
At one point, the camera zeros in on the wobbling convulsing lips and enters down a spiralling black and white throat, past a spinning bone (a reference to the ‘block of hash’ rotating in deep space in 2001: A Space Odyssey) to a bright yellow landscape and a glowing McDonalds store, and then a customer’s house that levitates like a spaceship and takes off towards the stars.
THE BED THAT EATS improves each time you view it, while Toilets Not Temples (the title is a rallying cry from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for urgently needed village facilities, such as toilets for women) in comparison seems indulgent and exasperatingly inept. Filmed with actors and artists speaking in several countries like India, Norway, and the States, with genuine spliced-in news items added, it moves back and forth between pithy commentaries on global issues about the production and distribution of food, and fanciful science fiction. The latter has ridiculously hammy props or photoshopping, depicting bodies raining out of the sky, crows with human heads, giant rats, and talking dolphins.
The central figure is David Leonard who as an investigative journalist looks at themes like the monopolies that control global food distribution, water and fish contamination, and the trajectories of food from field to consumer’s plate. He provides continuity in a production that is often quite disjointed. Visits to a leprosy museum and a rap concert are clumsily (inexplicably) inserted, and the film footage - where Leonard is addressing the camera from within an Indian crowd gathered during a Ganesh festival - soon becomes exhaustingly repetitive.
Actually, right now, the most exciting moving image work currently being shown at Artspace is the Georges Méliès 1902 production of A Trip to the Moon, on a plasma screen up in the mezzanine. It is part of a selection of films in the Public Domain. This pioneer movie, inspired by Jules Verne, is historically engrossing, a real treat (it was admired by Disney), and well worth a climb up the steep ladder to see. If you love the British TV series The Mighty Boosh with Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, and remember the talking moon man, the brilliant Méliès film will be a revelation.
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