Previously at the ICA - Films

Twenty Cigarettes, James Benning, 2011

Twenty Cigarettes

17 Oct 2011

James Benning is well known as a meticulous but lyrical chronicler of landscape, in films ranging from his California trilogy, through Ten Skies, 3 Lakes and more recent works such as RR and Ruhr. People have largely been absent or confined to the margins of his view. In Twenty Cigarettes, however, he places them at the centre, or perhaps more correctly people’s faces become the landscape for his – and our – exploration. Benning structures the film by asking twenty individuals to smoke a cigarette, and each shot lasts as long as it takes for this to happen. In that sense, the smokers are controlling both duration and, through their choices about where and how to stand or move, the cinematic frame of their contributions. Among the twenty, all friends of Benning, are some recognisable faces, including filmmaker Sharon Lockhart and academic Dick Hebdige, but as we watch the smokers, familiar or not, it’s impossible not to create narratives for them. Once again Benning is providing us with space and particularly time to be aware of our own viewing, the effect being that the self-consciousness of the smokers is to some extent mirrored by our own.

Dir. James Benning, USA, 2011, 9 mins

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