Dinca — contemporary art blog

Ben Russell: Uh-Oh It’s Magic: March 11-April 23, at Threewalls, Chicago


March 11th- April 23rd, 2011
119 North Peoria #2C, Chicago, IL 60607 (map)
Opening reception: Friday, March 11th, 6-9pm
Artist talk: Thursday, March 31st, 7pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-5pm

CHICAGO: For his SOLO exhibition Uh-Oh It’s Magic, artist 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 Portrait #1

Ben Russell is a media artist and curator whose films, installations, and performances have been presented in spaces ranging from 14th Century Belgian monasteries to 17th Century East India Trading Co. buildings, police station basements to outdoor punk squats, Japanese cinematheques to Parisian storefronts, and Chicago bathtubs to Viennese boats. He has had solo screenings and exhibtions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art. A 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2010 FIPRESCI award recipient, Ben began the Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island, is co-director of the artist-run space BEN RUSSELL in Chicago, and he currently teaches in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Founded in 2003, threewalls’ is dedicated to increasing Chicago’s cultural capital by cultivating contemporary art practice and discourse. With a focus on the practices of local artists and administrators or visiting artists interested in regional history and culture, we aim to create a locus of exchange between local, national and international contemporary art communities that builds Chicago’s reputation as an important site for creative research and production.

threewalls operates three programs: six exhibitions per year that support local artists through SOLO and group exhibitions; a series of public programs that explore current ideas in art and culture (The Public Culture Lecture Series, threewallsSALONS and a biannual symposium on grass-roots and community organized cultural administration) and a residency that invites artists from around the world to engage in regionally site-specific research or projects. threewalls is also joint administrator of The Propeller Fund with Gallery 400 at The University of Illinois at Chicago.

threewalls is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; by a CityArts Program I grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; The Chicago Community Trust; The Cliff Dwellers Foundation for the Arts; ArtsWork Fund for Organizational Development; The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; The Alphawood Foundation; The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; 3Arts Chicago; and major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. threewalls is sponsored by Pernod Absinthe.


Ben Russell on Vimeo


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