Guy Ben-Ner

Guy Ben-Ner

Guy Ben-Ner works on the border between art and life by creating ironic and surreal images that analyse the dynamics of contemporary society.


Soundtrack, 2013
Video still, single-channel video
Courtesy the artist and pinksummer, Genova

Guy Ben-Ner works on the border between art and life by creating ironic and surreal images that analyse the dynamics of contemporary society. In the video Soundtrack, the artist, together with his own children and a few friends, superimposes a new video sequence over a part of the soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s film, War of the Worlds, the story of an alien attack on Earth experienced from the point of view of a divorced father and two sons. The dialogue, the various sounds and the destruction wrought by an alien invasion become ordinary domestic accidents that rapidly succeed one another in a frenzied and at times hysterical crescendo.

The increasing neurotic anxiety of the main character confronts the continuous questioning by his children, whose search for explanations remains unanswered. As the children repeatedly ask: is this a terrorist attack? Is the real danger inside or outside the house? In the final scene of the video, the characters start to scream, hoping to invoke the return of the children’s mother, a plea that sounds like a desperate invocation of rationality and an attempt to find a way to free themselves of the father figure who has, by then, gone insane.

The Israeli artist appears to be reflecting on the power of the media to induce irrational fears and to serve as an instrument of political propaganda. He plays on the specificity of his own country, where citizens carry out their normal daily life while surrounded by security checks and alerts, real or presumed as they may be.

The typical structure of American apocalyptic films is the association of a catastrophe threatening humanity with a drama inside a single family who becomes the protagonist of the narrative. The contextual resolution of both catastrophes constitutes the classic happy ending. Ben-Ner creates a sort of ready-made audio-video, where the connections between meanings lead to endless nonsense. The video does not lead to a clear reading of its meanings or to an unequivocal level of interpretation. The smile and amused expression of the younger daughter acts as a fulcrum for the one possible exit from the deranged madness that dominates the video’s scenes.

Guy Ben-Ner (born 1969, Israel; lives and works in Tel Aviv, Berlin, and New York) moved to New York in 2001 to complete his studies and graduated in 2003 with a Master in Fine Arts from the Columbia University. His artistic practice is largely inspired by his personal experiences: before fi nishing his studies his fi rst son was born. His family and environment, and their internal relationships, are central to his investigations into the role of art between daily reality and ironic surrealism, between seriousness and playfulness. In 2005, Ben-Ner became internationally known with the artwork, Treehouse Kit, which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Two years later, he won the award in the International Competition Category at the KunstFilm Biennale, Cologne. Among his most recent joint exhibitions are: in 2004, Becoming-Father/Becoming-Infant, Bronx Museum of the Arts (BxMA), New York; in 2007, Skulptur Projekte Münster, Münster; in 2009, Standard Deviation, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; in 2011, Incongru. Quand l’art fait rire, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne – Medi(t)ation, 2011 Asian Art Biennial, Taichung; in 2012, Da zero a cento, le nuove età della vita, Triennale Bovisa, Milan – Family Talk, Futura Project, Prague – Künstlerkinder von Runge bis Richter, von Dix bis Picasso, Kunsthalle, Emden; in 2013, The Kids Are All Right: an exhibition about family and photography, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC – Homebodies, The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago – Image Employment, MoMA PS1, New York. Among his most recent solo exhibitions are: in 2005, Guy Ben-Ner-Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; in 2006, Guy Ben-Ner – Wild Boy, Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf; in 2007/8, Guy Ben-Ner – Stealing Beauty, in 2007 at the Daadgalerie, Berlin, and in 2008 at the Kalmar konstmuseum in Kalmar; in 2008, I’d give it to you if I could but I borrowed it, Postmasters Gallery, New York; in 2009, exhibition at the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Berlin – Guy Ben-Ner: Thursday the 12th, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASSMoCA), North Adams; in 2010, Guy Ben-Ner – Film / Zeichnung, Kunsthalle Mainz, Mainz – Second Nature, Postmasters Gallery, New York; in 2011, Name Dropping / Photography since 1970, Gimpel Fils, London – Spies, Site Gallery, Sheffi eld; in 2013, exhibition at the Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, Tel Aviv. Guy Ben- Ner’s works are part of the permanent collections in numerous museums and institutions, including: Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, MoMA in New York, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


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