The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Independent Interpreter James Benning



THE CLUI INVITED JAMES BENNING to screen some films to our audience in Los Angeles, as part of the Center’s Independent Interpreter series of presentations. Benning’s new trilogy is a Californian landscape odyssey, comprised of three 90 minute films: Los is about urban southern California; El Valley Centro is about the central valley; and SOGOBI is about the state’s wilderness areas.

The structure of each film is similar: A static camera shoots a composed view of a place for two and a half minutes, and each film has 35 of these views, each one of a different selected location. There is no narration, just live sound, and the sites are identified only by a list at the end of the film.

“Because the camera is still, the viewer's eye has to do its own work to follow whatever motion occurs within the frame,” said Megan Shaw Prelinger, an editor of Bad Subjects magazine. “Searching the frame with one's own eye, and having time to choose what to watch within each frame, creates a simulacrum of first-hand experience that is rare in film. In other words, after seeing Los, I remember some of the sites portrayed in it as if I had stood there looking at them myself for two and-a-half minutes.”