Artists' Television Access

Conditions Uncertain and Unlikely To Pass: recent work by Ben Balcom

Friday, January 23, 2015, 8:00 pm, $7-$10

Balcom_primitive_2Ben Balcom’s work in film, video, and digital-film hybrids investigates rather ordinary objects through a lens of speculative realism. His work insists on the materiality and tactility of the image, regardless of its medium. Using the surface tensions of the image he attempts to open up the strange spaces between our actual and virtual experiences, the spooky spaces of entanglement and uncertainty.

“Balcom engages with medium specificity—the textures and rhythms of the media he’s working in—and simultaneously troubles the inherent distinctions as he blends analog and digital, or pushes a single medium to extremes. His works are ones of instability, hovering tentatively and precariously between New Media and Old Media, but claiming neither (or maybe both). Beyond his formal play, Balcom takes on representation, technology, geometry, intellectual disquisition, systems and structures, and, well, a lot of heady-sounding things. But we come back to that word “play.” The seriousness is measured by a deftness of touch, an enthusiastic curiosity, occasional glimpses of irony,and a sensitivity to the beauty of the multiple textures in the imagery that provide many points of access. In instability there is openness.” – written by Patrick Friel

Ben Balcom is film and video maker currently living, working, and teaching in Milwaukee, WI. His work in film and digital (and digital-film hybrids) investigates rather ordinary objects through the lens of speculative realism. In addition to making films and videos, Ben also is the curator and co-founder of a neighborhood cinema in Milwaukee called Microlights, which specializes in avant-garde film and video work (

Ben’s work has screened at venues such as the Festival of (In)Appropriation in Los Angeles, the TIE Cinema Exposition, the Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival, the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the Cairo Video Festival, and the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival.

Approximate RT = 80 minutes

A Symptom; 6.5 minutes, 16mm/digital, 2014

A mirrored discourse. The object we see is the object wanting enumeration, but it is never said quite right. We are looking at speech from both sides of the mirror, listening to the wretch who elaborates upon the grid of desire.

Ceol (Ruinsong); 5 minutes, 16mm/digital, 2014

There, the ruins of a castle at the far edges of the land. The birdsong you hear mimics the sound of the river, and the human voice mimics the song of the bird. This is a failed historical gesture sung in the playful, wild mimetic gesture.

Celestial Object; 11.5 minutes, 16mm/digital, 2014

Here are the playful recordings of a naturalist; the observations of a difficult object. As the study accelerates and numerous strategies are employed, the information gathered becomes noise; the measurements become scribbles.

Digital Actualities; 6 minutes, 16mm/digital, 2012

These are actualities culled from the network: two instances of falling, two different registrations of time. These images mark the oneiric margins of the archive.  The re- inscription of the digital to analog to digital, conflate the actual and the virtual, producing uncanny fluctuations.

Reginald; 8 minutes, digital, 2012

Numerous sprouting trajectories give rise to the fabric of Reginald’s body. What we are left with are abstract shells that function as reminders of domestic spaces.  These are virtual spaces, out of which threads of narrative arise.  The figures form a supple machinery. Look at them dance and at the objects which adorn them.

array; 7.5 minutes, digital, 2013

Wandering through the city, wondering about the potentialities of space. Wishing and wanting a full experience of the virtual. These thoughts are rooted to spaces on the outskirts that have been rendered without detail. Listen to the code. An indecipherable alphabet floods the brain.  “Space” is really a bad metaphor for the Internet.

animal bone ash; 10, digital, 2013

Here we have a list of animal fragments invoking the strange materiality of distended information.

[deterritorialization]; 2.5, digital, 2013

The body is strata.  The strata need to be rent apart and then slipt between.  The landscape and the mechanism shatter, and the data from both conjoin in spiral formations.  Look, the sun is shining overhead.

[phrases];4.5, digital, 2013

Voices heard during sleep tell the story of the body struggling to form.  This body syncopates with the pulsing network of insects.  This archive of night is inscribed on the blank page of the body. I can hear the voices speaking even now.

Turning a Sphere Inside Out; 2, digital, 2014

This is how you turn a sphere inside out.

primitive; 15.5 min, 16mm, 2012

These fragments describe the tension between primordial perception and the tendency, towards distinction.  Every physical thing shimmers with intensity.  The earth shivers in repose.  Form is embedded in the pathways connecting the palm of the hand to the branches of the tree.



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