Stealing Beauty

Guy Ben-Ner is an Israeli artist who creates humorous video installation. He works with  remarkably simple sets and props, casting his family members in his kitchen or public spaces[1]. For Stealing Beauty, he set a camera on “auto” in Ikea showing rooms. He films his family following a script that has some reminiscence of a sitcom. This little witty team travels from Ikea store to stores, all around Europe. So, they basically turn until asked to leave by Ikea staff.[2]

During the first scene, Ben-Ner who acts his own role, being father of two kids, arrives home and disappear behind the shower curtain. We hear water run. His wife arrives and peeks in the tub, surprising him masturbating. Coming out, he protests that he was washing only. Then, his kids arrive home and the mum announces that they both misbehaved. At this point I was thinking that he was just mimicking a soap opera. The music really recalls it also.

As he lectures his son, who just stole something from the neighbour, that he has to earn objects he desires, he cites their family house and asks his son if he thought that he stole it. The paradox created here talking about property when he’s in fact using a public space is suddenly enhanced because an Ikea client put her face right in front of the camera. I enjoyed that moment because even if it was more or less expected, it wasn’t planned to come at that particular moment. And there, I thought, that’s it! The interest of this short movie is created by the funny visual issues due to the specific site of filming. And they surely kept coming up. For example, we see the wife looking very anxiously at people approaching the camera. The artist asks clients to move on at a point when they’re really staring at the family. Or I noticed that the couple bedroom isn’t the same in the morning than the one they fell asleep in.

However, as the story goes on, a deeper purpose to the video appears. Indeed, political statements come into the conversation he’s having with his children. When he defines the “private property”, and says you can claim something yours as soon as you kick the people out of it, he seems to make references to Gaza Strip. My opinion got more and more confirmed as the movie rolls on. I love how the Ben-Ner family acts like old nomads looking for a land as they move from an Ikea to another when as the same time Ben-Ner Dad discourses about private property and bordures issues. I appreciate how subtlety the political purpose came to me and not with a really clear position.

In my opinion, it is clearly a “must to see” as  it shows a very creative and sensitive approach to a political issue but it also inspires a reflection about a subject, that  token at a minor scale, can be more personal matter.  In addition, the creativity, wittiness and humour of this short film makes it very enjoyable.

[1] National Gallery of Canada. “Collections, Guy Ben-Ner.” Accessed November 06, 2014. http://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collections/artist.php?iartistid=43591.

[2] New York Art. “The Art Review. Artist in Residence.” Accessed November 06, 2014. http://nymag.com/arts/art/reviews/43567/.

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