Beres denies a predilection for obsession, but all printmakers might be accused of obsession—as well as a dash of masochism.
— Amanda Manitach, exhibition notes for "Horror Vacuii" at Davidson Galleries, 2015

“Horror Vacuii” is Latin for "fear of empty space.” In artwork, it means filling the entirety of a space or surface with detail. Nature abhors a vacuum, as did the Victorians an undecorated square inch. For his third show at Davidson since 2002, Ben Beres channels this impulse in a process that exhausts his personal idée fixe while expertly mashing together Renaissance technology with a sampling of contemporary culture. 

Without the aid of magnification, Beres etches his impossibly dense microscripts onto plates that seldom measure larger than 9 inches across. Most are not much larger than the palm of his hand. Much of the writing is borderline-illegible. 

Beres traces his compulsive habit of doodling to long childhood hours enduring sermons in church; his microwriting goes back to junior high, when he developed the habit of covering tiny squares of paper with notes to pass back and forth, rolled tightly into the shape of small cigars. 

The present incarnation of those notes and doodles offer a painfully vulnerable, impulsive splaying of the mind of the artist, its idiosyncrasies and fascinations laid out naked on a copper plate. Reading the prints is like a game of hide-and-seek, with the picture plane filled edge-to-bitter-edge with a barrage of the best and worst humanity offers in the form of sex, drugs, stream of consciousness rambles, curse words, lyrics, lists, scraps snatched from TV shows, radio, NPR, sports, conversations, jumbles of passing faces, limbs or lips. The plates comprise an immaculate collection of the fleeting.

Beres denies a predilection for obsession, but all printmakers might be accused of obsession—as well as a dash of masochism. The effort to etch a plate for 150 hours, then ink, wipe and finally pull the perfect print is ridiculous in the age of instant images. Rather, the pleasure exists in the straight-forwardness of the task at hand: fill the plate. 

What results is no end of maddening fragments (“Who put the mental in ornamental?” he inscribes on one plate)—the disembodied pouty lips and to-do lists, even a recipe for kale salad. However, other pieces howl quietly in miniature, with a flood of mercurial contemplations on the life of an artist, at turns effusively freewheeling or bleak.   

“So it begins down that self-indulgent road making wall decorations,” starts one piece, “rather filler for my flat file, future wedding gifts, maybe just maybe this is the first easy step towards financial freedom, no more worries, debt eradicated, hell yeah i’ll have guacamole another drink? absolutely it’s on. the joy of creation is....”

The words spiral into a vortex so tight-knit and ever smaller they disappear, obscured in an inky black chasm. Even he can’t read a lot of it. The images make you look, then look again. You see something different every time. 

—Amanda Manitach 

I submit Beres is highly promiscuous, sleeping around with a wide variety of textual partners. He often delves into the importance of faith, of good v evil, & of the scientific v the spiritual.
— Robert Mittenthal, Submission #1


Cargo Cult or How Ben Beres Almost Went Nowhere
by Robert Mittenthal

In her Field Guide To Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit points out that the word “lost” comes from the Norse.

Disband the army!!
Fall out 
Make truce with the wide world

She reminds us that children are particularly good at getting lost. Unlike adults, children know very well when they are lost.  The goal from Meno: “how will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

Amanda Manitach describes Ben Beres’ prior intaglio etching work extremely well when she talks of “congested fields of automatic doodles…  obsessive microscript… infused with irreverent compulsive regurgitation of chance pop culture references.”  Beres’ “Lost” etching is kissing cousin to a small set of prints [was this only one print?] made while watching episodes [the first season?] of The Wire.

I'd argue that getting lost is precisely what Beres does in his etchings, a serial form in which there is no going back, no erasure.  One must tunnel forward without paying too much heed to the horizon, i.e., it is more important to sound the depths, to pay attention to where one is.  

While I have little interest in getting lost in episodes of Lost, or in how we can “find ourselves” and return to some prior identity, I am interested in how to trail blaze towards the new, and/or how we're written, or how stories affect us.  

One theme of our very late capitalist moment is precisely how (over) consumption has become a product, how we produce ourselves out of what we consume.  Beres explores the durational aspect of performance as a sort of gluttony, consuming images and narrative hooks to excess.  There is way too much for any one person to digest, so Beres’ open invitation to friends and the public to sit and consume (what’s) ‘Lost’ with him seemed appropriate.  

The culmination of all this consumption is a single copper intaglio etching, an affective map that unfolds in time and across space, a record of the decisions that happened to Beres in his two week window of watching and being watched.

I think durational performances foreground physical process, aka labor.  There is a mostly unspoken rift in the art world where labor is belittled.  As if it is cooler to come up with an idea, in which the execution of the concept can be subcontracted or whatever.  

Not to endorse either side of this.  It is far too easy to dismiss insincere (for lack of a better term) conceptual work.  And likewise overly sincere craft work.  But this dichotomy is greatly reductive, since it is rarely so black & white.  What I find more interesting is work that interrogates or questions its own mode of working.  Art schools have typically trained artists to be the hardest working fools in no business.  Unfortunately, hard work can be difficult to sustain once one is in the world with many other obligations on one’s time.  

Lately, art schools have been taking lessons from business school where since the advent of the internet economy the key buzzwords have been “innovation” and “creativity.”  That is, art schools are now consciously attempting to ‘produce’ artist-entrepreneurs who understand how to network and market themselves.  Artists are encouraged to become successful entrepreneurs of themselves, to emulate captains of industry & conquer the world. 

What I'm reacting against are those who think Sutton Beres Culler work too hard, that the execution of their work is belabored and out of balance with their conceptual ideas.  It is a precarious thing - collaborating with other humans, making decisions with others.

We need to be more aware of labor.  We too easily forget that we stand upon the work of past generations.  Instead we worship the entrepreneurial spirit that actively pursues excess profit, naively accepting as ‘natural’ the creative destructions that drive what is presumed to be ‘progress’.  Labor that constructed the platforms that made “state of the art” breakthroughs possible is discounted.  It is no coincidence that newspapers (or what's left of them) have business pages but no labor section.  Perhaps much of today’s art news belongs in those same business pages?


Ben BeresFeeling Lost at Hedreen Gallery at seattle university, June 19-28 2013

Printmaker, performance artist and one third of SuttonBeresCuller, Ben Beres is moving his living room into Hedreen Gallery for the last two weeks of June. Continuing an ongoing series of intaglio etchings that cull text and imagery from popular television series, Beres proposes to watch consecutive episodes of Lost during the two week period while making etchings that document his consumption of the series. Beres’ etching style is notable for its borderline-obsessive microscript, comparable to the mad miniatures of Robert Walser but infused with the irreverent, compulsive regurgitation of chance pop culture encounters that work their way into congested fields of automatic doodles.

NOTES on a performance:

1. When is art and life successfully blurred? When is durational performance merely an extension of enduring life? Because we say it’s so. Because of the vinyl on the wall. Because the artist is present. 2. Artspeak. 3. An apotheosis of the artist deliberately turning the private world inside out. An orange couch is the site of public-private collision. Even the drawer of the coffee table brims with the clutter of the everyday: stickers, matchbooks, odds and ends, pens and pencils, receipts, junk. 3b. At Beres’ home, the apartment floor is empty, save for a few stacks of paperback novels and a BB gun. The rest has been exhumed, leaving the home stripped of personality and possession—a sort of husk and wasteland. Perhaps Beres feels most lost there during the course of this exhibit. 4. As with D.K. Pan (another artist participating in a durational event at Hedreen), Beres grew up in church, the son of a minister. An inquiry into the need for or emphasis on communal exchange, ritually-shared space, the breaking of bread (provided by Hedreen in the form of a free lunch) cannot help but be raised. 5. The spectacle of television is pervasive in private and public spaces. Perpetuating spectacle nested within spectacle. In experience economies and societies of spectacle, watching reruns on a couch while eating a free sandwich is the possible one and only future of art. 6. Taking the centuries-old process of intaglio printmaking and mashing it up with a Walseresque, obsessive micro-drawing and micro-writing—situating that within the framework of a durational (if comfortable) performance. 7. Is comfortable duration a farce? (“An exhibit otherwise known as Time Better Spent,” one journalist said out the side of his mouth as he popped into the gallery during install.) 8. Extending the Hedreen tradition of “Face Time” established by former curators who invited artists to invite visitors into the gallery to engage in conversation, conviviality, education or collectively making objects. 9. Solving Lost’s mystery. Exploring unusual ideas. Entertaining mundane ideas. Enduring life and performance. —AMANDA MANITACH

To read Beres is to read ourselves.  Stereoscopic hermeneutics meets the man in black, the smoke monster.  You love Beres because you feel him.
— Robert Mittenthal, Submission #1

Blind Carbon 
-for BB

"The burning space between one letter and the next..." -Jabes

Opposing thumbs
not the facts
a feeling of if 
a feeling of why 
an interstice whose art is to work 
as relations are 
to the wrong facts

I mean formal dynamics
against speech
Man O War who sired 379 foals
heart attack at 30
This is where I 
white out of 
betweens (love
the crispy crackers)

I never vomit but
swallow chalk
to eject the defined
lyric extreme

Flesh in dreams
inadequate to convict
subject and object
medicated with 
bifurcating hooks
Let us ghost that hammock
and spread acres of fat
a valley's loins
officer, did you take my hat?

Blind Carbon

"Think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen"

Time travel 
The ethics of eating meat
Suicides and serial killers

Businesses are open
Strategically placed
Hormones as I said 
Towed myself home

Repetition frames what
I wanted but it wanted me
Irreparable itch
Hyper-creative destruction
Another round of Ramen  
Grilled chicken
Glass of water

It meant sun and it meant now
gold and blue
insignia of different eggs
it meant checkered speech
No predicate to jump 
Boiled but slightly cracked

I wants ‘that’ (actually ‘I’ hates it)
Please delete 
material breach
Once upon a time
How a bruise appears
please delete the adjective aloft 
beautiful views
available immediately

Songs loop beyond 
loops transitive swath 
Paid for the show
for the rocks to sway rocks
commune there
in pith helmet
abolish insentience

Alt + Ouch

Consumptive estrangement
Fire the pool up
The land outside Safeway
Lossless logic 
Various levels of undress
Fat lip
To transfer or muddle
I am that platform
Carnivalesque over-accounting
Operants thrown out
In order to flee

No Optical Significance

Income payments 
To figure deduction
Misplaced cash

You smell sulphur
In the ear as on the page
They almost rhyme

The great outdoors
The body at each instant

Etymological river runs
Words but no music
All dignity

Sentiments and found philosophy
Questionable credit card activity
Whatever edge they might once have possessed

Sad penguins
Vivid loyalty
Cognitive maps

Down to the last trace
Parents will be sacrificed
Out of sheer boredom

We barked like dogs
Like sweating blankety-blanks but worse
Sanctified by the executive

Monopoly privilege
Glories of a long reign 
Because of isotopes

Because of insolvency

Work Man

"Violence… as a mirror reflecting the bleakest version of humanity..."
-Amanda Manitach

Every selection, every decision is a little violence.  The artist who cut off his right hand to display it in a self portrait. The end of the hand in contemporary painting. Disclaimer: it was a kind of multiple self portrait. A phantom limb.

Do not think you're like me 
Not very much alike
I did it for the money
whispered sotto voce
one has to play the game to win
He closed his eyes 
ran his prosthetic hand over his face

It's my book 
The whole world is a coincidence
I'm sorry my phone wrote this
The whole world is a coincidence
Maybe that is what freedom is

Suffering accumulates said my phone and that's a fact
The greater the suffering the smaller the coincidence
In the hurricane we find communion
Strange vindictive creature, said Dr. Smith

Dear Will Robinson 
Dear Robinson Crusoe

Until a poem begins to exist
Hannah Arendt's existential couplet
symptoms hold till I slump or peak
till words exceed 
that old fool analysis

Like a life raft
misery conceals my exploit
Will pay for good time
broken letter in hand 
to perform enjoyment 

No longer enough
is an enhancement
a feature not a flaw
Feels my need 
to feel invested
This I submit 
steps twice
my wager dismembered

The river
after history left me

And Found

Most likely due to the sea conditions
Wages paid to date, if any
Through sin to worldly alienation

Memory of life 
Even our ability to recollect it
The capacity to provide productive tension

Play of abstract concretes
How to recover from defeat
All confidence

For a little while
In the swamp of matter
In a monological insanity

The status of being unique 
Dissipated narrative
I mean velocity

Its rectifying force
The sword of power between us
Death in order to save 

Lazarus who already smells bad
Terror and oppression

His right hand
Its hold on time
Power in a continuous manner

Momentum again
Its sound properties

Ladies brutalize
Ability to revert
The chorus that captions

Submission #1 

I submit Beres is highly promiscuous, sleeping around with a wide variety of textual partners.  He often delves into the importance of faith, of good v evil, & of the scientific v the spiritual.

Beres is good medicine even if physicians who administer to him cannot explain how he works.  On the other hand, the phantom limb called Sutton Beres Culler is either a group hallucination or an animal you meet in hell.

Beres follows Aristotle's principles of closure and relevance. He evokes both laughter and tears, deliberately throwing unlikely images and/or doodles together.  If he hadn't been a con man, he'd be a cripple. 

Cannibal to the core, Beres ate my life, absorbing rather than vomiting me out with the Others.  He doesn't just sit in front of a flickering electronic pixel, seeking to escape life thru subpar television programming. He is, ah, like an empty puppet show, mesmerizing us with constant tease and deny tactics.

"The appearance of labour in contemporary art can be looked at in at least two ways: as mimesis and as a prototype for the becoming-contingent, guaranteed and 'unconditional' of wage labour in general... "labour has always been a symptomatic issue for art..."

In etching - there is no palimpsest - one turns the error outward.


“I was never lost in the woods my whole life, though I was once confused for three days.”  -Daniel Boone

Beres performs a necessary function: he gives narrative a real-felt sense of the traumatic.  He suggests significant links between seeming strangers, the way the world seems smaller, more connected.  He does more than play narrative games.  He creates a kind of wish fulfillment that balances mystery, fear and fantasy.

Less concerned with solving the problem (of returning to civilization), Beres wants to explore epistemologically how he wound up in the precarious world he finds himself in.

Beres plays Crusoe - whitewashing brutal colonization in an origin tale of an adventurous homo economicus.  It is a performance about globalization, about ecological awareness, an allegory of postcolonial territoriality.  Beres starts all over again with the same story, looking for a footprint in the sand. 

He leaves us with a DJ Spooky-ish idea of the 21st century, demonstrating associations with genetic sequencing and hypertextuality.  But Beres does more than merely represent these issues; he enacts them.  The audience enters a world that mimics the viral, polysemous and intricately reticulated quality characteristic of our globalized ecological postcolonial and cybernetic lifeworld. 

To read Beres is to read ourselves.  Stereoscopic hermeneutics meets the man in black, the smoke monster.  You love Beres because you feel him.

Reckless with Details

not for publication
due to condemnation
during windthrow events
opportunities to achieve other directives
to harvest
catastrophic events
all trace of passivity
schizophrenics know they exist
our paradise
status as commodity
stock at the stage of fabrication
considerable chunks 
intercourse with Barbarians
the odious name of Manichees
safety & solidity of regal power 
his admiration of Byzantine riches

in the original
in the modern appellations of Perigord
in a single day
in the waves
in the naked and disorderly crowd of Africans & Moors
in the splendor & rapidity of their victorious career 
in the clouds 
in the pity for the man
in the purple
in the ferociousness of manners
in the public esteem
in the property of the father
in the foaming waves
in war
in the general desolation

gratitude of the penitents
immense space 
in the eyes of the Chinese
great measure
attack of the bridge

in the enjoyment of peace
the active memory of the eradication
his job
in the face of complexity
the Platonic Socrates
on point of lance
just sitting there with a prisoner

in a strange part of the ship
even private unhappiness
its more optimistic cast
among all the noise
our recluses
their savior
your last Great Dictator
no intention to inform others
the power to exclude
data points
so many customers
entire families
to debt slavery

I’ve come to the end of my slope

Swallowed up in space
I cling to the debris of reason
drowned in its murmur
naked on the shore

Alien artifacts
relics of future rupture
sorry histories of perceptions
of cyclical catastrophe
ransacking the museum for possible weapons
on an inclined plane

[insert: http://www.zimmermanndeperrot.com/]

Lost links 

Deep folds of memory
Thick curls of his hair
On a hopeless climb
In a forest that could barely be seen thru the fog
In a cave in the Atlas mountains
Years of his own life
On eager and insatiable cannibals

His bearings
All his top teeth
All notion of time
In wasted movement
No time 
Giving him the brush-o

One engine 
Then the other 
You momentarily forgot 
& went into a tailspin

The sense of being in a hostile environment
Counted as one of the ones
It took a half an hour to find her

In Soledad prison
All respect but…
Tempted to turn back
Stolen thoughts
I never knew how to speak

Your mind, don't worry
My mind, absolutely not

Lesser demons
Love and a diet plan
Hope of seeing
Billowing dust
My appetite, my fate
The strength to hold on
A group of illegals
In a dream 
On another planet
Catacombs of the early Christians
Friends some of whom were already dead
All his teeth in a nightmare
All sense of time
Yorkshire pudding
Penis & testicles

Blind Carbs

Famished eateries for eyes
A saline salute tipped
for jugs of beer

This sport walks as such 
good little squirrels to seek 
parks in such parks
Slammed on TV to snip 
pork rinds or old playboys

The barhop bagged me I mean
the streets illegal ruminations
Expected afterblast legs
but not in these fast surrounds 

O- to be what's his name
The article announcing it's over
One soup can one doll one hickey
uber alles.  Agitation surfaced
each edge squeezed out
in sandwich to sound satisfaction 
but not guaranteed

A page turns 
The urge to buy
and can't hold it steady --

"I" wants your irrational number
a circled state of some such
bloodsucking conditional 
whose sucking candy is the joke
that kills with weaponized glee

Whose clock then
gives it up as one's stare

Relaxed ground for the serial churn  
its incitement never made us
ignite point to point 
a radial dial wandering streets
as the letter drops

Soup wears out the eye
no matter counter to what 
Love the parody of lights 
shaving  a shimmy 
box where our bodies end

I remember that Genie lift S-65
The more garbage the more 
sandwich trucks and pinochle 
Visigoth derangers
who's your daddy now
blasts and counters

WTF is an angel. Mercy means 
I've snagged an owl
shorthand hits for the cycle.  Bypassed 
boots & fished for inflated form
Dracula’s intimate abbreviation
expunged in in-camera inspection

Does Amanda realize this longing?
His keys stuffed with parlance
pushed or jacked up 
impossible blend I've a mind to
and will. Time and life salesmen
with dirty dog collar
coldcall trauma 
broke and dissolved

A danger vortex for what?
It's about fucking pay back
I dare you to return to muse
a world on fire for kings
bottom dealing in queens

This is a quick exam
a testament to your text
graft and theft that aides and abets

To let one plus one
equal damage done
being what begins here

Blind Carbon

“The locusts wings say throng, throng. They say bird, bird. They say join, join.” 
-Adorno [from interview with Elias Canetti, March 1962]

Standing inside in line
I have always been a fan
glib fingerlings skinned alive
boxed in multiplex
Goobers in uniform
to become One
Spinoza's Samurai 
circling sky


Catalyst or catapult
fear touches touches
its sting 
to perform contradiction
to perform the zero itself
the primary production (production)
polecat commands 
20 years later
what molecules cannot seize
good manners in conduct with others

My feeling for "because" (because)
My feeling for "or" (or)
My feeling for "sorry" (sorry)

Grammar looks to chisel
Looks to statue

Looks to fact

Looks to resist