Ben Judd

Ben Judd (born 1970) is a British artist, and lives and works in London. He completed an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in 1997.
Judd has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, including group exhibitions JAM: Tokyo London, Tokyo Opera City Gallery, Tokyo and The Barbican Centre, London; The Galleries Show, Royal Academy, London; Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, International Center of Photography, New York; Impakt Festival, Utrecht, The Netherlands; Social Creatures, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany; Seeing is Believing, The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Whitstable Biennale, UK. His solo exhibitions include Vilma Gold, London; Michael Janssen, Cologne; Kunstbunker, Nuremberg.
Judd’s performances and videos examine his relationship to specific individuals and groups; recently the choreographic and the rhythmic has been used as a method of constructing temporary communities. The work explores how the ritualistic activities of marginalised groups and individuals can be extended into an action realised by actors (one that itself hovers on the border between immersion and a more self-conscious, knowing state), and how, in turn, this action can be interpreted in a moving image work. Positioning himself and the audience as both participant and observer, he engages the grey area between ritual and performance, searching for an unreachable and idealised state of community.
While on residency in Colombia in 2007, Judd formed his own group by fabricating the contradictory movement I Will Heal You, which took its beliefs from an eclectic range of sources. This work culminated in a performance in which he adopted the role of the movement’s leader. The accompanying video (see I Will Heal You) was constructed through his contact with a witch, a parapsychologist, a Scientologist and the sole member of a new religion, during which he attempted to believe, even on a temporary basis, in what he was being told or was being asked to do. Key phrases from Judd’s interactions with these people were used as lyrics for songs, which were included in the video, altering the viewers’ interpretation of the words from ordinary to prophetic, or vice versa.
In May 2008 Judd invited two mediums to explore a gallery space with members of the public, which resulted in a séance and a demonstration of clairvoyance. Judd has also videod himself at a class for clairvoyants, in which he stood up in front of the class and demonstrated his clairvoyant abilities (see the video Close To You). As with previous work, Judd is interested in challenging his preconceptions about a particular belief system; as an atheist and a skeptic he attempts to buy into an ideology and adopt the role of a believer. Judd genuinely participates in the activity yet is also aware of his position as an observer, and of how the act of videoing will recontextualise what is experienced.
In 2010 Judd contributed to the exhibition 14 Interventions at the Swedenborg Society, London. His performance and video Concerning the Difference Between the Delights of Pleasure and True Happiness, used performers embedded in the audience in a séance-like arrangement, reciting text from the Swedenborg’s prose in an increasingly ecstatic cycle of spoken and sung phrases. Swedenborg, a scientist who became a mystic, embodied the conflation of the empirical with the unknown or invisible. His (often outlandish) descriptions of his encounters with the spirit world are mediated through his earlier incarnation as a scientist. Otherworldly experiences, for example of a spirit existing in his foot, are therefore brought back down to the here and now, and are in turn physically relayed by the performers. Victorian magic lantern projections acted as ‘scientific’ metaphors for his encounters with the spirit world. The piece further explored the notion of the individual in relation to the group, and the ambiguity of whether the group offers freedom or conformity.
Future work
In 2014 Judd was commissioned to produce a new live work for the Whitstable Biennale (Vast as the Dark of Night and as the Light of Day). This performance formed a temporary, and fragile, community out of the ten passengers on board a 19th-century Thames sailing barge. Centred below deck, performers used texts from several different literary sources that described the narrative arc of voyage and return. The structure of the performance suggested a trip away from, and back to a starting point (that mirrored the physical trip of the boat). Also below deck was a magic lantern projection which showed original Victorian slides that mirrored some of these concerns. Ideas to do with closeness and distance, the collective and the individual, were referenced, sometimes obliquely, in the images.
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