Architecture on Film: One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later

Weds 10 December 2014, 7pm

  • One Way Boogie Woogie, courtesy James Benning / Arsenal Berlin
  • One Way Boogie Woogie, courtesy James Benning / Arsenal Berlin
  • One Way Boogie Woogie, courtesy James Benning / Arsenal Berlin

One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later

In 1977 I shot One Way Boogie Woogie in Milwaukee’s industrial valley. As a kid I played there, hopping freight trains and fishing in the Menomenee River. In 1977 the valley was beginning to die. Factories were moving out. The steel foundries were rusting. I wanted to document its decay. Using friends, family, and three Volkswagens, I shot in March on brightly lit days creating 60 one-minute narratives. Then 27 years later I decided to make the same film again. I located all 60 prior camera positions and most of my old friends and family. Things had changed with age. A few people had died, some of the buildings were gone. I used the same soundtrack from the old film, cutting the new images to it. It is a film about memory and aging.

– James Benning

Rigorously formal, yet humorous and full of life, Boogie Woogie’s sequence of 60 static one-minute shots surveys the industrial landscape of Benning’s native Milwaukee. Hailed as a masterwork of avant-garde filmmaking, it takes location shooting literally, offering a playful moving image parallel to the work and interest in the ‘man-altered landscape’ of the New Topographics photographers (whose influential exhibition was mounted two years earlier).

Named with reference to Mondrian’s painting, Benning’s pictorial compositions similarly flood the frame with aesthetic order and verve. Here his approach disrupts the strictures of structuralist film through narrative vignettes and playful sound, offering an early example of the artist’s ongoing exploration of place and sight through experimental documentary form.

27 years later, Benning revisited the same sites to make an updated version of ‘the same film’, accompanied by the same 1977 soundtrack of ambience, radio, adverts and pop songs. Places change, but the songs remain the same. Together, the two films document the impact of the passage of time upon the urban environment and Benning’s cast of protagonists, whilst reflecting upon the medium of film as an agent of time-travel itself.

An introduction to the work of one of world’s most significant artist filmmakers, the films will be shown from a 16mm print.

USA 1977 / 2005, Dir James Benning, 121 min 2014