• (FC) Two Cabins by JB / Two Cabins by James Benning
    Julie Ault
    James Benning and Dick Hebdige
    A.R.T. Press, 2011
    Julie Ault

James Benning, Ted Kaczynski Cabin, constructed April-June 2008. Photo: James Benning.

(FC) Two Cabins by JB documents, analyzes, and extends a body of work by acclaimed filmmaker James Benning. Benning reconstructed Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski's iconic cabins and used these structures to reflect on utopian and dystopian versions of social isolation and relationships between wilderness and unbridled techno-industrial development; mounted on the walls are copies of paintings by "outsider artists" made by Benning. On the surface, Benning's Two Cabins are night and day, invoking contradictory sets of reclusive intentions and divergent paths leading out. Deeper inquiry reveals the Thoreau–Kaczynski equation to be inspired, making discernable a multitude of contacts between Thoreau and Kaczynski's beliefs, political viewpoints, and experiences of seclusion. Benning's formation artfully unfolds a complex articulation of practices of dissent, nonprescriptive ways of living, and the politics of solitude. The book includes extracts by Thoreau and Kaczynski, photographs by Benning, and essays by Julie Ault, Benning, and Dick Hebdige.

Julie Ault edited this book. Her role included conceptualizing the volume's framework, developing its contents in close dialogue with Benning, and determining the manner by which information unfolds and builds within. Her essay engages the thematic universe of the cabins project and its triangle of forces—Thoreau, Kaczynski, and Benning. Ault previously wrote about Benning's work in “Using the Earth as a Map of Himself: The Personal Conceptualism of James Benning," from James Benning (Filmmuseum Vienna, 2007), and in "4195.6 feet: Geography of Time," an essay on his filmic meditation on Smithson's Spiral Jetty. Ault is the editor of Alternative Art New York, 1965–1985 (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Steidldangin, 2006), Come Alive: The Spirited Art of Sister Corita (Four Corners, 2006), and Show and Tell: A Chronicle of Group Material (Four Corners, 2010). Ault recently earned her PhD in art research from MALM Art Academy, Lund University.