Ben Rivers at the Whitworth, preview: Fact and fiction

Suzy Prince
Man watching an art film

The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers is Ben Rivers’ most ambitious work so far – and it’s coming to the Whitworth.

Ben Rivers’ practice as a filmmaker falls between documentary and fiction. A recurring preoccupation of his work is with people who have separated themselves from society in some way; the initial film footage he takes of them then provides him with a starting point for creating imaginary alternative existences.

Rivers has used materials sourced from old film sets to create unique viewing spaces within the gallery

The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (at the Whitworth 25 February – 22 May) is a filmic adaptation of Paul Bowles’ acclaimed short story A Distant Episode, first published in 1947. This fictional tale sees a professor of linguistics travelling through the desert, and examines the cultural divisions between Europe and North Africa, the role of language in defining identity, and the shifting nature of cultural supremacy. Rivers’ version, co-commissioned with Artangel, was filmed in hand-processed 16mm cinemascope, and combined with observational footage, all shot in Morocco. As the film unfolds, there is constant migration between documentary, fantasy and fable.

Originally shown at Television Centre in London, the artist has used materials sourced from old film sets to create unique viewing spaces within the gallery, as well as inserting works into existing collection displays. It is, then another example of art being integrated throughout the gallery – and should make quite the spectacle.

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