James Benning’s Deseret (1995, 80 min.) is a frightening account of the 140 plus-year history of Brigham Young’s creation of the Mormons, the state of Utah, the awesome Church of Latter Day Saints, and his latter-day legacy. Constructed from dozens of New York Times clippings spanning 1853-1995, contrasted with contemplative images of Utah itself, the narrative becomes a terrifying vision of America’s struggle between defiant independence and cult fanaticism, freedom and imposed order. Benning has been observing American culture (11X14, One Way Boogie-Woogie, Landscape Suicide, North On Evers) for over twenty-five years, with a rigorous sensitivity to American landscape, and his work has influenced filmmakers from Jim Jarmusch to Eric Saks.
Thursday, December 7, 1995
Brigham Young's Iron Heel
Deseret by James Benning
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts