Great Setting, Shame About The Underwhelming Films — Review

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 29 months ago
Great Setting, Shame About The Underwhelming Films — Review ★★☆☆☆ 2
Watch as this scene is re-shot over a few takes. Photo Tabish Khan
Watch as this scene is re-shot over a few takes. Photo Tabish Khan
Explore the hollowed out BBC drama block as we move between works. Photo Tabish Khan
Explore the hollowed out BBC drama block as we move between works. Photo Tabish Khan
The films are projected within these impressive scaffolds. Photo Tabish Khan
The films are projected within these impressive scaffolds. Photo Tabish Khan
Grainy black and white footage adds very little to the films. Photo Tabish Khan
Grainy black and white footage adds very little to the films. Photo Tabish Khan
Pass through the demolition site that was once the BBC's home. Photo Tabish Khan
Pass through the demolition site that was once the BBC's home. Photo Tabish Khan

Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Artangel is an arts company with a reputation for staging innovative work in great settings. Projects include flooding a council flat with copper sulphate and the memorable Spectra. The use of a great location has served them well in the past, with a look at old age within a shop window and narratives played out in a semi-dilapidated house where Van Gogh once lived.

The latest setting is the demolition site in White City, which used to house the BBC. It's a fantastic opportunity to walk through this site, though for obvious safety reasons our journey doesn't allow for exploration and we had to follow a fenced off route through the outdoor section and a set path inside.

The art itself is inside the shell of what was the BBC's drama block, but can these films live up to the cavernous and atmospheric setting? The task has fallen to Ben Rivers, an experimental film maker who straddles both the art and film worlds and has won much critical appraisal and many awards for his work.

Rivers's films are set in Morocco and cover a range of narratives across four films and one sound piece. As can often be the case with his work, the films are hard to follow giving the audience very little to go on. We struggled to engage with these works and we suspect other visitors will fare similarly. Some of it is filmed in black and white, with grainy 16mm film; this choice never seems justified as it simply detracts from the films on show.

The more interesting works are behind the scenes of the filming of another work by fellow artist Shezad Dawood. From the snippets we saw, it looks like Dawood's film may be more exciting but Rivers's take on it feels far too self-referential for its audience, even those who are fans of video art and film.

Overall the work by Rivers left us bored and disengaged. However, we've bumped this up to two stars as the lack of an admission charge justifies the journey just to see the fantastic setting it's within.

Ben Rivers: The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers is on at Television Centre, White City, W12 7RJ until 31 August. Entrance is free and via the car park next to the main building. For more art see our top openings for July and our most talked about exhibitions in June.

Last Updated 29 June 2015

badrenalin

The works on show are subtle and at once powerful, Rivers has always used 16mm film, which lends a particular texture and timelessness to the work. If you do have the patience to meditate upon these films (I recommend) you will be rewarded. With so little space and time to actually think and digest in the 21st century, this vast installation and piece of slow cinema offers exactly that. Take your time and enjoy it as you might with a painting or piece of photography. 4.5 stars.