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Opening time

Today we are open from 10.30 am to 8.30 pm

Opening time

Today we are open from 10.30 am to 8.30 pm

Ben Rivers

21 APR - 28 MAY 2017

Tuesday - Sunday
10.30 am - 8.30 pm
Palazzo della Triennale
Triennale di Milano presents the first solo show hosted by an italian institution of the work by Ben Rivers, British artist and filmmaker.

This British artist and filmmaker’s work erases the boundaries between ethnological and documentary film, blending memory and fiction. His film essays describe unreal worlds, remote landscapes, and alien individuals from some obscure time, possibly past or future.

The artist’s work, predominantly in a 16mm format, has been presented in contemporary art centres as well as international film festivals. His language walks the line between art and cinema, exploring genres that range from thriller to noir by way of horror and science fiction.

For the exhibition at Triennale di Milano, Ben Rivers has conceived an environment that forms a reflection on memory. Three screens, each showing a film, are arranged to create an experimental narrative journey where different times and stories are interwoven. The works in the exhibition focus on the idea of collection, in both the institutional and personal context. The things we leave behind, used as guides to piece together the idea of an individual or a group.

In “Phantoms”, the figure of an “unreliable narrator” comes into play, as is often the case in Rivers’ work, suggesting voyages and shifts through distant times and places. At the entrance, the film The Shape of Things (2016) projects images of artefacts from the ethnological collections of the Harvard Art Museums: a Byzantine sculpture of a hermaphrodite and an anthropomorphic jug from Stone Age China are accompanied by the voice of American poet William Bronk reading his composition “At Tikal”. The poet’s words lead us to question the desire to create images of ourselves in an unending cycle of creation, destruction and renewal. A man’s life and memories provide the context for Phantoms of a Libertine (2012), inspired in part by Marcel Broodthaers’ Voyage on the North Sea (1974). In the film, a series of visual and textual elements extrapolated from a travel diary create an ambiguous biography made up of mysterious, dreamlike clues. In Things (2014) the narration shifts to the artist and his home. The description of elements making up his domestic environment – fragments of books, images, objects and sounds collected over the years – is at the same time a voyage through collective memory and imagination.

The narrations and stories presented in the works rhythmically articulate the exhibition, conceived as a structure open to discussion and possible misunderstandings: reality and imagination blur together, creating figures and presences that appear both tangible and dreamlike at the same time, in a carousel of voices and apparitions.


The exhibition is a cooperation project with Camden Arts Centre, London; Kunstverein in Hamburg and The Renaissance Society, Chicago

Curated by
Lucia Aspesi

Artistic Direction
Edoardo Bonaspetti, Triennale Arte Curator

Cover Photo: Ben Rivers, Phantoms of a Libertine, 2012
16mm film, color, sound, 10 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London


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