Friday, April 24 - Thursday, April 30, 2020
Ben Rivers’s Now, at Last!

Presented by Laida Lertxundi

Now, at Last!, Ben Rivers, 2018, 39 mins
Courtesy Kate MacGarry, London.

Watch now.

Listen to a conversation about the film with Lertxundi and Rivers.

The analysis of animal locomotion was one of cinema’s originary moments, a matter of both scientific inquiry and aesthetic fascination. Eadweard Muybridge captured the activities of horses, humans, and other beasts through mechanical interventions in the late nineteenth century, isolating their movements to illustrate that which would otherwise elude our vision. More recently, Ben Rivers has achieved a related, if inverse, effect, allowing the viewer to enter, via film, the time-scale of another species. Now, at Last! is his appropriately unhurried 16mm portrait of a Costa Rican sloth’s pendulous existence. Last year, Rivers called this austere nature study a political work, adding, “I live in London, I’m busy a lot of the time, and it’s really noticeable when you go into nature and time changes. Everyone notices it, and it feels good. I like it when cinema can do this, take you into a different state if you allow it to. Some people misunderstood the film as a joke about ‘slow cinema’—actually, I wasn’t thinking about that at all...I didn’t film one frame of anything else—just this beautiful animal.”

Last week, filmmaker Laida Lertxundi emailed us from Spain with the idea of screening Now, at Last! online, to mark a moment in which our own species has undergone a dramatic shift in tempo. “In my mind something about it became threaded with our current condition of confinement,” she wrote us, appending the following piece of writing, composed in response.

For one week, Light Industry will be streaming Now, at Last! on our Vimeo channel. This screening, like all of our presentations during the COVID-19 interval, will be free and thus more accessible at a time when so many face financial uncertainty. As a W.A.G.E.-certified organization, we remain committed to compensating artists for their work, so if you’re in a position to do so, please consider subscribing to our Patreon for as little as $2/month, making a one-time donation through PayPal Giving Fund, or purchasing one of our benefit editions.

---

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Pascal, Pensées

We are suspended, lolling, in an eternal present where the everyday is an inaccessible idea. We find the sloth, el perezoso in Spanish. She hangs, sleeps, eats something, moves, and lives within a kind of vegetative or enlightened state, depending on how you see it. Loss of form is what the sloth seems to understand, and so I feel that I understand her, or that she understands us.

Now, at Last! by Ben Rivers is an endearing portrait of the slowest animal in the jungle. It captures a state of wonder shared by some of the earliest films in the history of cinema, the awe of seeing reality unfolding in front of you.

For forty languid minutes, we observe the sloth as she sleeps, from time to time moving but mostly hanging, or indefinitely between these states. From the minimalism of the black and white image, we move onto images shown in tricolor separation, exaggerating the slowness and shaking our senses, accompanied by The Righteous Brothers singing extra-diegetically.

I like all of Ben's movies. They have a way of surrendering to the materiality of the medium and the exuberance of reality without reflecting excessively on their motives and conceptual architecture. They are sensual.

This one, in particular, seems appropriate in our current state of confinement, where tragedy is fought elsewhere, in hospitals. The doctors, nurses, and workers in the supply industry risk their lives and the most valuable thing we can contribute is to be still.

The weeks go by with a languor that softens our intellect. It seems like we should have all the time in the world, but that just isn't true. As a mother to a little girl, the time I have is almost entirely hers. Time away from the people we love...time without knowing how to structure these days in which work, the personal, domestic, theoretical all collapse into a mass without form. We fall into a vertiginous dive from all the towers that once supported our activity, and from a faith in a future that made us go on. The path is made by walking (1) and we are prohibited from walking.

Glossary for quarantine in the key of the sloth:

milieu pur (pure medium)

That which is between desire and fulfillment. (2)

Purposiveness without Purpose

Kant said that the art object is that which exhibits intentionality without intention. That is, the work is created on purpose but without any purpose in particular. This helps explain why some works of art seem to move us without communicating a specific message or conveying a direct idea.

Gesture

The element of cinema is gesture and not image.

Images in cinema are themselves movement, and as such they express the social fabric, the act of being among human beings. Gestures convey not an end in themselves, but a state of endless mediation. (3)

Latency

To embrace latency goes against the grain of the logic of productivity. It creates moments in which meaning remains provocatively latent. The appraisal of latency restores dignity to the unsaid, the unshown, and everything which cannot be dragged out into the open.

This must not be understood as a denial of agency. On the contrary, the insistence to speak—or make work in any other way—about that which is neither readily understandable nor immediately useful is in itself a strong claim to agency: I can speak or make work about what I can’t speak or make work about.

This is a time that stretches into long days and nights of pushing towards something. Through its immanent temporality, work is structurally at odds with any regimented notion of time. Latency interrupts the homogeneous pace of high-performance culture. (4)

Transformation

The transitional moment. Being between two worlds, as people and as a society, without knowing what we will become. Loss of form, freedom.

- LL

Notes:

1. Antonio Machado, “Caminante no hay camino,” Proverbios y Cantares, 1909.
2. Stéphane Mallarmé, Divagations, 1897.
3. Giorgio Agamben, Means without Ends, 2000.
4. Jan Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance, 2008.

--

“Todas las desgracias del hombre se derivan del hecho de no ser capaz de estar tranquilamente sentado y solo en una habitación”. - Pascal, Pensées

Estamos en suspensión, colgadas, somos, en un presente eterno en el que aquellos días normales son una idea inaccesible. Nos encontramos al perezoso o sloth en inglés, se cuelga, se duerme, come algo, se mueve y vive una especie de estado vegetativo o iluminado depende de por donde se mire, y lo mismo se puede decir de nosotras hoy. La pérdida de la forma es lo que parece entender el perezoso y por eso siento que le entiendo, o que nos entiende.

Now, at Last! de Ben Rivers, es un retrato entrañable del animal mas lento de la selva. Captura el estado de asombro de las primeras películas de la historia del cine, la sorpresa de ver la realidad reproducida frente a ti.

Durante cuarenta lánguidos minutos observamos como el perezoso, duerme, de vez en cuando se mueve y la mayor parte del tiempo se cuelga indefinidamente entre ambos estados. Del minimalismo de la imagen en blanco y negro pasamos a la imágenes de separación tricolor exageran la lentitud y son una sacudida de sensaciones acompañada por el canto The Righteous Brothers de manera extradiegética.

Me gustan todas las películas de Ben. Tienen una manera de entregarse a la materialidad del medio y a la exuberancia de la realidad sin reflexionar excesivamente sobre sus motivos y arquitectura conceptual. Son sensuales.

Esta en particular me parece apropiada en nuestro estado actual de confinamiento, en el que la tragedia se bate en los hospitales. Las sanitarias o trabajadoras en la industria de abastecimiento arriesgan sus vidas y lo único que podemos aportar es estar quietas.

Las semanas avanzan con una pereza que nos ablanda el intelecto. Parece que deberíamos tener todo el tiempo del mundo, pero no acaba de ser verdad. Como madre de una niña pequeña, el tiempo que tengo es casi todo para ella. Tiempo alejado de las personas que queremos…tiempo sin saber como estructurar estos días en los que el trabajo, lo personal, lo doméstico, lo teórico… colapsan en una masa sin forma. Caemos en un picado vertiginoso de todas las torres que sujetaban nuestra actividad, y de esa fe en un futuro que nos hacía caminar. Al andar se hace el camino (1) y tenemos prohibido andar.

Glosario para la cuarentena en clave del perezoso:

milieu pur

Stéphane Mallarmé denomina millieu pur lo que está entre el deseo y la realización.

Finalidad sin fin

El filósofo alemán Kant decía que el objeto artístico exhibía intencionalidad sin intención. Es decir, que la obra es creada a prsopósito pero sin ningún propósito en particular. Esto ayuda a explicar porque algunas obras de arte parecen conmovernos sin comunicar un mensaje específico o trasmitir una idea directa.

Gesto

El elemento del cine es el gesto y no la imagen.

La imagen en el cine está en movimiento y como tal, refleja el ser entre otros seres, expresa el tejido social. Los gestos no transmiten un fin en sí mismos, sino un estado de mediación interminable. (2)

Latencia

El entregarse a la latencia va en contra de la lógica del rendimiento. Se trata de crear momentos en los que el significado permanezca provocativamente latente. Este estado restaura la dignidad a lo no dicho, lo no mostrado y todo lo que no se puede arrastrar a la luz pública.

No debe interpretarse como una denegación de agencia. Por el contrario, la insistencia en hablar sobre aquello que no es fácilmente comprensible ni inmediatamente útil es en sí mismo un fuerte reclamo de agencia: puedo hablar o crear algo sobre lo que no puedo decir​.​

Este es un tiempo que se extiende en largos días y noches de empujar hacia algo. A través de su temporalidad inmanente dicho trabajo está estructuralmente en desacuerdo con cualquier noción regimentada del tiempo. Interrumpe el ritmo homogéneo de la cultura de alto rendimiento. (3)

Transformación

Momento de transición, de estar entre dos mundos, como personas y como sociedad, sin saber en que nos convertiremos. Las formas fijadas desaparecen, libertad.

- LL

Notas:

1. Antonio Machado, “Caminante no hay camino,” Proverbios y Cantares, 1909.
2. Giorgio Agamben, Medios Sin Fin, 2000.
3. Jan Verwoert, Exhaustion and Exuberance, 2008.