Who has never tried to escape from reality, as a child, by playing to impersonate the idols of some training books or of adventure tv series? Even the Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner (Ramat Gan, 1969) did it, and when he grew up, he continued to do so, involving his children in the creation of crazy and exciting stories, full of humour and spontaneity, but also of social criticism. The most striking aspect of his videos is the intention of preserving simplicity, freshness and naivete typical of childhood fantasies, and the ability to create worlds starting from small things of everyday. Forget sophisticated digital technology, aestheticism or conceptualism which end in themselves! The works of Guy Ben-Ner is a hymn to the imagination without boundaries, the celebration of Do It Youself, a playful experiments that reflect the social relationships and the boundaries between public and private.
We met him on the occasion of his participation in the exhibition 0 to 100. The new ages of life – produced by the Marino Golinelli Foundation in partnership with La Triennale of Milan, and curated by Cristiana Perrella and Giovanni Carrada -, which displays Wild Boy, one among his most significant videos.

Guy Ben-Ner, Wild Boy, 2004, Video Still, Courtesy of the artist and Postmasters

DROME: Why have you chosen the video as your privileged language? And what has driven you to adopt such a peculiar stylistic cipher, based on craftsmanship, low budget and simplicity?
Guy Ben-Ner: I was at home with my children, and had no studio, and so naturally decided to work with them using our house as a set. Video was the easiest way to get them involved in the work itself, to participate. It was also a better tool to start dealing with a more narrated form of art, something I was very much interested in. Low budget and simplicity where imposed by our economical situation.

D: Your works remind me of how kids, often with a few objects and a huge imagination, can create fantastic stories. You were surely such a boy, weren’t you? Which kind of stories were you used to play?
GBN: I used to play Tarzan.

D: In Wild Boy (2004), you play the role of a man who teaches to a little Mowgli how to live in the civil society. In the real life, have you ever considered your artistic practice as an alternative educational method?
GBN: I am aware that while working with kids you are always also imposing authority and sometimes educating, but my aim, eventually, was a movie. With education, the object you aim at is education.

Guy Ben-Ner, Berkeley's Island, 1999, Video Still, Courtesy of the artist and Postmasters

D: On your opinion, which are the major differences between today and yesterday in the way children play and have fun?
GBN: I guess the right answer would be Internet.

D: When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?
GBN: A basketball player.

D: Have your children ever influenced or suggested anything during the shooting of your works, thus becoming co-creators in some ways?
GBN: They usually had things to contribute, from working on the sets or creating the props themselves, to small changes in scripts. But the biggest change was made in my movie Elia (2003): my daughter, who played the lead role, made me change the end of the movie because she did not like it. Since she was the lead, she wanted me to add some “glam” to her part, glam that was lacking, in her opinion, in my version of the script. So, I had to listen to her.

text by Francesca Cogoni
photographic portraits by Carlo Beccalli for DROME magazine

0 to 100 – The new ages of life
Triennale di Milano

Milan (Italy), until April 1, 2012


Do you want more CHILDHOOD inputs? Discover here DROME 18 – the CHILDHOOD issue!