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February 26, 2007

Ten Skies, 2004

tenskies.gifWhile James Benning's 13 Lakes captures the materiality, self-equilibration, and memory of water, the film's equally rigorous and abstractly hypnotic companion piece, Ten Skies illustrates the mutability, ephermerality, and transience of nature. Shot in Val Verde, California, the film consists of ten minute, stationary shots of ten isolated skyscapes set against the ambient sounds of the unseen (but implied) diverse landscape, as each cloud formation dissipates, morphs, displaces, or is otherwise transformed by its environment: the shifting symmetry of parallel line trails created by the residual plumes from jet engines that have long traversed the airspace, the tincture of orange that suffuses the lower frame from a setting sun, the obscuration and otherworldly discoloration from a distant, raging fire, the rapid movement of billowy clouds to the top of the frame, accelerated by the propulsive, rapid expansion of liberated exhaust fumes from an industrial factory operation, the tranquility of a near static sky momentary interrupted by the intrusion of real and artificial birds in flight (an earlier image of a traversing airplane is visually repeated a shot of a small flock of birds darting across the frame). In illustrating the decontextualization of cloud formations from a fixed point of reference in their insubstantiality and amorphous autonomy, Ten Skies reflects their seeming existence outside of time, creating a contemplative, peaceful, and indelible illustration of environmental fragility and transitory - yet paradoxically eternal - quotidian sublimity.

Posted by acquarello on Feb 26, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Film Comment Selects


Hi acquarello, I was at this screening of TEN SKIES too. It was so surreal to be watching the sky in a movie theater, and I was wondering what everyone in the audience must be thinking about as we viewed this film together. I really felt reconfigured by the experience. My imagination was out of control. I cannot even describe it. :) Ephemeral and eternal!

Posted by: jmac on Feb 26, 2007 9:58 PM | Permalink

I'm glad you both got to see this beautiful film that had me thinking about the "cinema frame" in ways I don't think I ever had before, and probably haven't since, as it's hard to recreate a thought even if you have had it...

Posted by: Brian on Feb 27, 2007 1:05 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Jen and Brian. I must admit, this was more challenging film for me than 13 Lakes. I was constantly scanning for points of reference, fixed "object", something concrete but because of the way things were always shifting and transforming, it just wasn't possible. I think my mind finally stopped resisting after one of the parallel jet plumes disappeared from the frame in the first sequence, it was almost a conscious statement to stop fixating on symmetry (and structure), something that was a recurring framework for 13 Lakes. In that sense, Ten Skies almost seems like a deconstruction.

Posted by: acquarello on Feb 27, 2007 10:04 AM | Permalink

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