Press Release

The Renaissance Society presents the first US solo exhibition by London-based artist Ben Rivers. Urth features a newly commissioned film presented alongside two recent works.
Explorations of community, landscape, freedom, and flux are at the center of Rivers's practice. Working in both feature-length and short formats, the artist draws on elements of documentary and fiction, experimental film and mainstream cinema.


International exhibitions

International Archives 2nd half of 2016

Ben Rivers, Urth

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (USA)

10.09 - 06.11.2016




Ben Rivers, Urth, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2016. All Rights Reserved

Urth takes its title from the Old Norse word suggesting the twisted threads of fate, as cited by philosopher Timothy Morton in his recent book, Dark Ecology. The films in the exhibition share an interest in utopias—in particular, the tension between a yearning for an idealized world and the impossibility of such a place. For Rivers, utopias are necessarily hermetic and subjective spaces, conditions that are reflected in the settings of these works.

For this exhibition, the Renaissance Society commissioned Rivers to produce a new film, also titled
Urth, which he filmed on location at Arizona's Biosphere 2. A cinematic meditation on ambitious experiments, artificial environments, and visions of the future, this new work imagines a scientist living alone inside an experimental ecosystem. In a voice-over written by author Mark von Schlegell, the anonymous scientist records her final days and hours in the sealed environment.

Two previous films by Rivers similarly explore the relationship between humans and the natural and constructed world.
Slow Action (2010) offers an imagined study of island biogeography across four locations, considering how these self-contained sites have and might continue to evolve. Its quasi-ethnographic narrative, also written by von Schlegell, imagines future societies grappling with rising seas and soon-to-be-lost ecologies. Things (2014) is a film collage divided into four "seasons," juxtaposing found imagery, objects, and sounds with domestic and nature scenes that are at once intimate and unsettling. It is presented alongside a series of drawings and photographs.

Ways of Worldmaking, the first monograph on Rivers's work, will be published in autumn 2016 by Kunstverein in Hamburg, Camden Arts Centre, Triennale di Milano, and the Renaissance Society. The publication includes new essays by Melissa Gronlund, Ed Halter, and Andrea Picard alongside extensive images from Rivers's films and texts by Robert Pinget, Renee Gladman, and Henri Michaux, among others.

Curated by Solveig Øvstebø.


Ben Rivers, Urth, 2016. Production still. Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London

Exhibition 10 September - 6 November 2016. The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Cobb Hall, 4th Floor , 5811 S. Ellis Ave - Chicago, Illinois 60637 (USA ). Hours: Tuesday–Friday 10am–5pm, Saturday–Sunday 12–5pm






Ben Rivers, Urth, 2016. Production still. Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London