BEN RUSSELL

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— During my teenage years in Southern California, I spent three summers at a “marine biology” camp on Catalina Island. It was a total dream, and in the midst of the scuba diving lessons, the shark identification exams, the golf cart rides into town (cars weren’t allowed), the meteor shower make-out sessions, and my awkward ascent out of adolesence came Boyz ‘n The Camp – not only the first video I ever made, but also the first collaborative underwater remake I was ever party to.

Loosely based on John Singleton’s Boyz n The Hood (1991), our Boyz features an embarassing array of butt jokes, (un)popular music synched to diving footage, unplaceable ‘hood accents, and a neverending credit sequence seemingly peopled by everybody in camp. Among the gems: underwater drive-bys and taggings, a genuine pot paranoiac, bat-ray licking, ocean floor gangster strutting, and a tear-inducing finale featuring the slo-motion death of yours truly. Edited on VHS using an analog tape system, I remember being especially proud of my synch edit of a yawning rockfish and the orchestral warm-up of R.E.M’s Nightswimming.

It’s worth noting that while I’m super-uncomfortable putting this work back into the world (and even went so far as to make an alternate 15:00 layered edit to get around it, a lá Michael Snow’s Wavelength For Those Who Don’t Have the Time), I decided a while ago that discomfort is worth confronting head-on – so here it is. There were three set of hands involved in Boyz, so at least I can’t take all of the credit. I should probably list Time as a fourth collaborator, or at least as some sort of analog plug-in – it’s added a remarkable gloss of drop-out and decay to the VHS object that has been newly preserved for your internet eyes. Special thanks to Jesse McLean for planting the seed and preparing the formaldehyde, and a shout-out to Burt and Kurt (and John Singleton) – wherever you are.


Ben Russell was born in 1976. He currently lives and works in Chicago. He is a media artist and curator whose films, installations, and performances foster a deep engagement with the history and semiotics of the moving image. He has had solo screenings and exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Wexner Center for the Arts, threewalls and the Museum of Modern Art. A 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2010 FIPRESCI award recipient, Ben began the Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island, was co-director of the artist-run space BEN RUSSELL in Chicago, IL and performs in a double-drum trio called BEAST.

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