Erika Balsom: Ten Skies
Author/Editor: Erika Balsom
Erika Balsom: Ten Skies
Ten shots of the sky, each ten minutes long. That’s all it takes to describe James Benning’s Ten Skies (2004). And yet, this simplicity conceals a rich and absorbing drama, one of the great works of the American avant-garde. Scholar and critic Erika Balsom unfolds its hidden intricacies of meaning, extending its lessons with crystalline prose, a comparable sense of depths, and an exhilarating, maximalist intimation of what criticism can do and become. She brings you from the film itself into the mind of the artist, through philosophical musings and art historical scholarship.
James Benning’s movies show me how to look, and confirm the way I want to see. Erika Balsom, clearly a kindred spirit in her regard for these movies, has not just studied Ten Skies, unfolding hidden intricacies of meaning, but apprehends it on instinct, too. The results are precise and also wise. (Rachel Kushner)
Part of the epic achievement of Benning’s Ten Skies is to confound expectations of minimalism with a mesmerizing study of time, light, movement and moisture that traces the shifting relations between clouds and earth, nature and people, teaching us how to look and listen in the process. Erika Balsom’s study—”a punch of clean rigour,” like the film she describes—recognises and extends those lessons with crystalline prose, a comparable sense of (and access to) depths, and an exhilarating, maximalist intimation of what criticism can do and become. (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
Erika Balsom brings you from the film itself into the mind of the artist, through the history of experimental cinema, to philosophical musings and art historical scholarship, and back into Benning’s thoughtful imagery. Take this little book, put it in your pocket, and wander the landscape until you find the perfect spot to sit and read, pausing now and then to look at the sky. (Sharon Lockhart)
Erika Balsom is a scholar and critic based in London. She is Reader in Film Studies at King’s College London, a frequent contributor to Artforum, 4Columns and CinemaScope and the author of four books, including An Oceanic Feeling: Cinema and the Sea (2018) and After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (2017).
Published 2021 by Fireflies Press