James Benning
Two Cabins

From September 6 to November 3, 2018
Opening on September 7 from 5 pm to midnight



As if on the periphery of the gaze, because often what commands our attention is located outside the frame, the work of Ismaïl Bahri, James Benning, Ralitsa Doncheva and Miriam Sampaio carefully documents the occupation of a site which, for reasons both personal and political, is the only witness, even the sole legatee, of past or future events, giving form to an exile either desired or imposed, permanent or temporary.


From the summer of 2007 to 2008, James Benning built replicas of two emblematic cabins: that of Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher, naturalist and poet known for his anti-segregationist views and his way of life, which still inspires those who subscribe to voluntary simplicity; and that of Theodore John Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”), a mathematician, militant environmentalist and neo-luddite accused of sixteen bombings over twenty years causing several deaths and injuries.

Two Cabins (2011) juxtaposes in a quite simple manner the view from a window of each of the two cabins. While at first sight the work appears to invoke the transcendental value of nature, what it symbolically embodies and juxtaposes through these images are certain fundamental principles of American culture: the limits to and scope and meaning of individual freedom; and the connection between democracy and civil disobedience and between technological evolution and the protection of the environment.


James Benning was born in 1942 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA). Before devoting himself to cinema, he studied mathematics and became a schoolteacher. His first films, inspired by experimental cinema and structuralism, appeared in 1971. He settled in Val Verde, California in 1988, where he taught film at the California Institute of the Arts. His most popular course, called “Listening and Seeing”, sums up the basis of his artistic practice: taking the time to observe and to hear more keenly the things around us. This primarily passive gesture nevertheless brings about real participation in the world. James Benning’s work has been widely seen internationally in exhibitions and film festivals, including at the Jeu de Paume in Paris (France), the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the Rencontres internationales du documentaire in Montréal and, more recently, the Berlin International Film Festival. His work has been seen in group exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland (2013), at the Fridericianum in Kassel (2014) and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (2002). The Berlin gallery neugerriemschneider has represented and been exhibiting his work since 2011. His films, shot solely in 16mm, have today been restored and preserved at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna.

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Other exhibitions

Ismaïl Bahri

Ralitsa Doncheva

Miriam Sampaio

From September 6 to November 3, 2018


Commented visit

On November 1, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Dazibao thanks the artist for his generous collaboration as well as its advisory programming committee for its support.

Dazibao receives financial support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Ville de Montréal.