9th November 2019
Urthworks by Ben Rivers - 9th November 2019
Renowned artist Ben Rivers presents Urthworks at Hestercombe Gallery, from 9 November 2019 to 9 February 2020.
In Urthworks we imagine the future of our planet by voyaging back into the deep past via our earths geology and travelling fast forward via science fictions to glimpse new dystopian societies.
The title of Ben Rivers’ exhibition brings together two ideas: Urth, in Norse mythology is the goddess of fate, a giantess who personified the past. Earthworks, by contrast is a 1960s novel by Brian Aldiss that imagines a future after devastating ecological breakdown. Ben Rivers makes films that explore ‘other worldliness’ in the actual world around us. Places are severed from the conventions of time past, present or future. The line between real and imagined becomes uncertain. This exhibition brings together a trilogy of films developed by Rivers in collaboration with the American science fiction writer Mark Von Schlegell.
In Slow Action (2010), Rivers’ study of the biogeographical environments of Japan, Tuvalu, Lanzarote and Somerset is combined with Schlegell’s writings of future island utopian societies. Urth (2016), is set in an extraordinary artificial research environment in Arizona, where Rivers’ images of the futuristic glass building are populated by the spoken log book of the last living woman on earth.
The work Look Then Below will be premiered at Hestercombe; it was shot this year by Rivers in the vast, dark passages under the Mendips. Images of the hollow earth are combined with computer generated lost civilisations and hymn-like triplets set alongside haunting choral music. The film conjures ghosts of iron age settlers whilst foretelling of human environmental disasters.
In parallel to the new work, we will exhibit Herbert Balch’s notebooks and findings from Wookey Hole ravine. The 19th Century cave explorer and archaeologist worked with the illustrator John Hassall and photographer and printer Harry Savory to bring the history and legends of the cave to life.
Photo credits: courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry