Benning, one of the best-known figures in American independent film, has devoted his life to exploring and filming the North American landscape in 16 mm. In this new work, he takes his first steps in HD to make his first film overseas. He loses himself in the industrial landscapes of the Ruhr Valley to find parallels with his birthplace, the industrial landscape of his native Milwaukee. It becomes a portrait of working life and differences between immigrant and native working classes. The digital medium is a new platform for the aesthetic dexterity that he uses to frame reality with a disarming precision, at the same time exercising his eternal interplay of references with other artists. We see a Richard Serra sculpture and the film’s longest shot, the tower of the world’s largest Coca-Cola plant, a test of strength that is a nod to Andy Warhol’s Empire State.
Ruhr, James Benning. USA, HD video, 121 min.