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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.

Curated by Josephine Lanyon for Somerset Art Works, Somerset Film and Hestercombe Gallery.


You may also be interested in:

Grazing not Gazing Film Workshop, 1st – 2nd February 2020
a 2-day 16mm film shoot and process workshop with artists Katie Davis and Vicky Smith.

Urthworks, An Exploration, 2nd February 2020
with Ben Rivers, Mark von Schlegell and Sarah Shin with Josephine Lanyon and Tim Martin. Hosted by Gareth Evans

Projections: Exhibiting Artists Film Workshop, 6th February 2020
Drawing out the ideas of people and place explored in Urthworks, curator Josephine Lanyon will explore ways of programming film.


Supported by:

arts council logo
wookey hole logo
Hestercombe Logo
National Lottery Heritage
prior park college
wells and mendip museum logo
South West Heritage Trust Logo

Photo credits: courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry

Event Location

Hestercombe Gallery
Hestercombe Gardens
Cheddon Fitzpaine
Taunton
Somerset
TA2 8LG
Ben Rivers Urthworks Hestercombe Gallery

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