Magic Lantern Cinema and Balagan unite to present a pair of outdoor film events on two consecutive nights in downtown Boston and downtown Providence under the banner “Ship to Shore,” evoking the sea-faring histories of their respective cities. Each program is composed of one portrait of a water body by Peter Hutton and one landscape film by James Benning: two artists who share a similarly contemplative approach to place-based documentary film practice while still retaining strikingly original styles of filmic analysis and expression. A former merchant seaman, Hutton has documented four decades of voyages through such places as the Yangtze River, the coastline of northern Iceland, and the Hudson River Valley in his strikingly photographed films, whose reverent depictions of landscape have been compared to the work of Thomas Cole and the nineteenth-century Luminist painters. Benning has been producing meditative portraits of the American landscape for as many years, creating works that blend rigorous formal concerns with a deep investment in national politics, local histories, and the environment.
The first screening will occur Friday, August 24th in Boston and include Benning’s early short 9/1/75 (1975), a twenty-two minute tracking shot of a Wisconsin campground on Labor Day, alongside Hutton’s recent feature At Sea (2007), an exploration of the staggeringly complex terrain of global commerce through the lens of a single merchant ship. The second screening, to occur Saturday, August 25th in Providence, pairs Hutton’s two year portrait of New York’s Hudson River in the wintertime, Study of a River (1997), with Benning’s feature-length documentary Deseret (1994-95), a hauntingly beautiful investigation of the landscape and social history of Utah produced on the centennial of Utah’s statehood.
These screenings mark the second collaboration between Balagan and Magic Lantern in the last year, and also extend their parallel inquiries into site-specific modes of film curation and exhibition. By placing Hutton’s studies of seascapes and waterways in dialogue with Benning’s analyses of landscape and national politics, and screening these works in open air urban environments, “Ship to Shore” seeks to highlight the connections existing between these two artist’s film practices, to explore contemporary relations between nature and the built environment, and to strengthen the lines of communication that tie Boston’s experimental film culture to that of Providence.
“9/1/75,” James Benning, 1975, 16mm, color, sound, 22 min
“Twenty-two minute tracking shot through campgrounds in Southern Wisconsin.” – Film-Makers’ Coop
“At Sea,” Peter Hutton, 2007, 16mm, color, silent, 60 min
“A haunting meditation on human progress, both physical and metaphorical, At Sea charts a three-year passage from twenty-first-century ship building in South Korea to primitive and dangerous ship breaking in Bangladesh, with an epic journey across the North Atlantic in between.” – MoMA
“Study of a River,” Peter Hutton, 1997, 16mm, b&w, silent, 16 min
“The first part of a seasonal portrait of the Hudson River. This section portrays observations of winter over a period of two years.” – Canyon Cinema
“Deseret,” James Benning, 1994-95, 16mm, color, sound, 82 min
“James Benning marks the centennial of Utah’s statehood with… Deseret… [an experimental documentary which] examines the imposition of human design, both physical and conceptual, on nature.” – LA Weekly