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Home Island

Berkeley’s Island (1999) – Guy Ben-Ner

Guy Ben-Ner always plays the lead role in his own films, which even in their seemingly spontaneous, documentary moments are in reality artfully constructed performances. Since 1999, his films have revolved around comical settings or ironic interpretations of literary works, and they often feature allusions to classic films.

For his Drop the Monkey, the artist enters into a dialogue with himself, between his Berlin self and his Tel Aviv self, actually filmed in both cities. In this way, the artist creates his own genre: the film performance. At heart, however, as in all films, he reflects on his own identity and on the borderline between art and life, which he constantly seems to cross — even when this step is itself merely another staged element in his work.

Still from Guy Ben-Ner’s video Stealing Beauty (2007), which features his family going about their daily lives while inhabiting a showroom in an IKEA store – Courtesy of the Artist and Gimpel Fils, London and Postmasters, New York

Guy studied at Hamidrasha Art School, Beit Berl College, in Ramat HaSharon, Israel, and later at Columbia University, in New York. One of his early works, Berkeley’s Island — 1999 —, dealt with artistic constraints — in terms of setting, artistic material, and funding — and featured himself as a lonely castaway stranded on a pile of sand in the middle of his kitchen. Filmed with a relatively inexpensive video camera and within the confines of his home, this low-budget video was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. It explored themes prevalent in many of Guy’s works, such as the longing for adventure, the search for solitude, the need to play, and the way human primal desires are mediated by social structure and mores.

The presence of his children in the video — and his wife as well in others — allowed him to weave back and forth between reality and fantasy, addressing the tension between family obligations and artistic and personal freedom. As his reputation grew, his works began to explore the idea of autonomy and loss inherent in being an itinerant artist of international acclaim.

Wild Boy (2004)
Berkeley’s Island (1999) – Guy Ben-Ner

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