The Center for Ongoing Research & Projects

Ben Russell

You Only Live Once

September 12th, 2015 — October 10th, 2015

  • Ben Russell, YOLO
  • Ben Russell, YOLO
  • Ben Russell, YOLO

You Only Live Once. Herein is a recording made on S16mm film in more-or-less one take, the direct result of a one-day sync-sound production workshop given in June of 2014 given to the somewhat distracted Eat My Dust youth film collective based in the Kliptown district of Soweto in South Africa. The shot was meant to be in sync and had been arranged to run in reverse via a series of optical ruptures, but nothing quite worked out or, said differently, everything did. #YOLO

The teenage sound recordist presses stop when he is supposed to press start; the sync clap goes unseen; the adolescent non-actors miss their cues; a soccer ball flies through the air towards the camera. Every break and fracture takes a different form altogether.

All that was recorded in Kliptown remained simply as material, as archive, until a year later when it rematerialized, re-envisioned. Seen anew, sight is confused and reflected in all directions, catching non-actor and audience in a series of glances that turns all of us into subject. Sight resonates site, echoes both outward: herein is a makeshift structuralist film shot in the burned-out ruins of Soweto’s historic Sans Souci Cinema (1948-1998), re-presented at COR&P via the repurposed material discards of the Columbus streets. We are as they are (and vice versa): reflected everywhere, present in that sky and brick and skewed horizon, peering out through the cracks in the kino-mirror.

Due to the fortuitous un-recording of the sync-sound single take, the interior soundscape is constructed from a mix of pre-roll audio recordings, an unexpected document of a handful of young men and women briefly converting themselves into solid-state data. As competing sine waves steadily rises to the piercingly resonant frequency of a crystal goblet, Soweto voices holler out raps, guffaws and goof-offs.

Every broken mirror is seven years’ bad luck, in reverse. You Only Live Once.

About the Artist

Ben Russell (b.1976, USA) is a media artist and curator whose films, installations, and performances foster a deep engagement with the history and semiotics of the moving image. A 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2010 FIPRESCI award recipient, Ben has had solo screenings and exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Viennale, and the Museum of Modern Art. He began the Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island, was co-director of the artist-run space BEN RUSSELL in Chicago, IL, has toured worldwide with film/video/performance programs and was named by Cinemascope in 2012 as one of the “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50.” Ben lives in Los Angeles, USA.

This project is made possible with support from The Ohio Arts Council.