Guy Ben-Ner

Guy Ben-Ner, Second Nature (video still), 2008

Guy Ben-Ner, Second Nature (video still), 2008

Guy Ben Ner (b. 1969, Ramat Gan) is best known for making inventive low-tech videos that appropriate and - re-contextualises myths and well known literary tales using his family as the central protagonists. By using amateur actors, film sets and homemade props he has managed to create works that are witty and ingenious but also extremely tender and often magical. 

In his piece for MADE UP entitled Second Nature (2008), Ben-Ner created a video that emerged from Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Crow. It’s a video in three parts that blurred the boundaries between fact and fiction. One part of the video was shot as a documentary about specialist animal trainers training a fox and a crow to re-enact the fable, but developed into a fictional re-telling of the fable itself by the animals, interjected with a re-enactment of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by the animal trainers. The dialogue between human and animal was crucial, exploring subtle modifications in behaviour made through the interaction between the two, where one could never truly control the other.

In the repetitive and questionably futile action of trainee and trainer, Ben-Ner’s video owes much to the plays of Beckett – the trainer trains the animals to re-enact the fable; Ben-Ner trains the trainer to act in the documentary and the play; and the animals train each other within the tale itself. He used the same setting, a lonely tree, to tell two different stories – one a fable and one a play. Ben-Ner revealed the function of fables – the use of animals to tell human stories and instruct our own moral behaviour – and mimicked their strategies to manipulate the animal trainers as the fable unfolded. Essentially the action was the same, repeated again and again. The documentary and the fiction mirrored each other and thus the fiction became the reality, questioning the parameters of both concepts, whilst also examining the peculiar and blurred power relationships between the trainer and the trained.

Guy Ben-Ner at Liverpool Biennial 2008

Second Nature, 2008
DVD projection
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool