James Benning: One Way Boogie Woogie 2012 Exhibitions: 1 March - 9 June 2012
Part of AV Festival 2012: Slow As Possible
James Benning is a veteran American film-maker who is recognized as one of the pioneers of independent film in the USA from the 1970s to the present day. This is his first ever one-person exhibition in the UK. His works invite us to contemplate America's unseen landscapes, industrial cityscapes, and vernacular architecture.
One Way Boogie Woogie was James Benning's first feature-length film, shot in 1977. It set the tone for his future career as a film-maker who invites us to pay close attention to the details of the world, and to parts of our cities that we ordinarily pass by. Benning's films are often chains of beautifully composed, long static shots of the urban landscape. Each offers a subtle story about the way we live now, or an oblique look at the history of America in our lifetimes.
One Way Boogie Woogie has been called "unique in the history of American documentary film" for its uncompromising stare at the realities of American life. The film was shot in the industrial valley of Benning's home town of Milwaukee in Wisconsin. Thirty five years after making the original film, Benning has returned to Milwaukee to recreate a new version, One Way Boogie Woogie 2012.
Benning's title adapts Piet Mondrian's abstract painting based on New York, 'Broadway Boogie Woogie'. If Mondrian's painting was a celebration of America's dynamism and of Manhattan as a symbol of America, One Way Boogie Woogie offers a portrait of another America. The work shows us sights seldom committed to film or celebrated as subject-matter fit for art. We encounter landscapes far removed from those that Hollywood presents, where the most ordinary or prosaic places are revealed to be beautiful and strange.
Benning has carefully chosen eighteen cityscapes that invite us to examine the areas of the city we seldom, if ever, notice. In One Way Boogie Woogie 2012 each picture is composed as carefully as a painting: we are invited to wander into each frame, and to offer our entire attention to the texture of the world. Unexpected colours, angles and make his shots seem like abstract paintings of pure space. At the same time, Benning implicitly reveals the fate of industrial, urban America in our time.