Thursday, July 1, 2021 at 7pm
James Benning's Ten Skies

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Ten Skies, James Benning, 2004, 16mm, 109 mins

Introduced by Erika Balsom

In 2004, James Benning made a 16mm sound film of great simplicity: ten 10-minute static takes of the sky. Ten Skies. How many films can be described so succinctly? It rivals early Warhol. The title says it all.

When I first saw the film, it felt like a punch of clean rigor. It was literal, obvious, and empty in the best way, an elemental experience of pure vision appealing to the beauty of structure, photochemical film, and the natural world. Nietzsche wrote that "to experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrongly." I don't think this is always true, but it can be. As time passed, I realized that there was so much I had missed in my initial encounter with Benning's celestial images.

The person who taught me the most about cinema once said that there are films that present themselves as complex objects but which are in fact quite simple. Choose your own examples, many exist. And then there are films—rarer altogether—that appear simple but harbor tremendous complexity. Such is the deception, the allure, of Ten Skies—a film messier and more profuse than my immediate love for it had allowed.

- EB

Erika Balsom is a scholar and critic based in London. She is Reader in Film Studies at King’s College London, a frequent contributor to Artforum, 4Columns, and Cinema Scope, and the author of four books, most recently Ten Skies (Fireflies Press).

Tickets - $8, available at door.