Sunday, October 29, 2000

James Benning’s El Valley Centro

San Francisco Art Institute

For more than twenty years, James Benning has been making films of the American landscape which combine elegant formal compositions and structures with subtle political and social critique. His latest, El Valley Centro, presents a portrait of California’s agricultural Central Valley through thirty-five two-and-a-half-minute views, each coupled with synchronous audio tracks but devoid of overt commentary. Seeming random at first, these elements accumulate meaning and take on organization as the film progresses, ultimately presenting this strangely quiet yet highly industrialized landscape as a complex nexus of social, political, and environmental forces. El Valley Centro is the first of a two-part series. Benning will return to present the second part, Greater Los Angeles, this Winter. (S. Polta)