Guy Ben-Ner

Artvehicle 26/Review

10th October 2007 — 17th November 2007

Ikea might be cheap but they don't like to give it away. Their press pack contains seven sheets of A4 paper yet we are told on the back of the envelope that it cost £5 to produce. You would think that with the amount of catalogues they must run off they would be able to get their printing costs down a bit. You can imagine how grumpy they must have got catching Guy Ben-Ner making his film in their example kitchens with out permission.

Adapting the products/spaces of big corporations to make work continues to be a medium for artists; whether they are using the soldiers in the computer game 'Halo' to discuss philosophical issues or re-editing films to their own ends. The subversion necessary for Ben-Ner's piece is obvious yet it succeeds in rising above 'wow isn't that clever' and becoming something all the more sublime.

Ben-Ner, his wife and two children wander casually into IKEA, put down the camera and act out the scenes necessary for his film. They work their way through the script until a member of staff catches on and asks them to leave. They filmed at two IKEAs in Israel, one in Germany and one in America and over a good few months if hair-length is anything to go by. Continuity isn't an issue here; in fact it is a running joke. Clothing changes, rooms, price tags and languages; the only constants are the oblivious shoppers (bar the couple pointing at the camera) and the IKEA bags.

At 18 minutes long, 'Stealing Beauty' has a similar running time to a standard sit-com and a similar format, lots of sitting around the living room table or relaxing on the sofa à la 'Friends'. There are some fun visual gags using the sets with a long, slow pan from son washing up in one kitchen to washing up in a different kitchen set-up on the other side. There are a surprising number of dressing gown and pyjama shots and dad even appears without a shirt on at one point (so that'll be the end of another days filming then).

The plot is well-written, and reverberates well within the 'stolen' setting. Youngest son is caught stealing from a classmate and is sent home with a note. The family then discuss and compare ownership, property, worth and love. In one homely scene Dad charges for a bedtime story and is disappointed with his earnings. There is also a sub-plot about dad masturbating in the shower - with hilarious results.

It is a fun blend of slapstick, TV comedy, hidden camera shows and earnest, education programme but not totally without faults. The manifesto at the end is a bit heavy-handed and some of the acting may be a little wooden, but that's hardly surprising under the circumstances. It is probably the slickness of the set up that encourages us to make unfair comparisons, mind you, the littlest boy is very good and worth looking out for in future productions until he goes off the rails.


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30 Davis Street
London W1K 4NB

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Saturday, 11am-4pm

Guy Ben-Ner —