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Ben Altman

Danby, NY


Artist Statement

The More that is Taken Away: ” ‘You must love the mutilated world’ – Adam Zagajewski

Mass graves indicate a society in major crisis. My multiple-year meditation The More That Is Taken Away uses the mass grave as its central image and spectacle. Many turning points of modern history were, and are, violent on massive scales; I mourn, memorialize, and reclaim these events by recording performances at my home and by visiting sites of atrocity. My practice explores the roles of perpetrator, victim, and bystander. Other bodies of work are images of atrocity and memorial sites: their tourism, signage, architecture, and landscaping.

The work is loosely divided into three acts, recorded on video and with an 8×10 camera. In Act 1, shown in the submitted photographs, I excavate interlocking volumes from the ground in my own back yard. The documentation shows time passing: forms are refined then destroyed, weather corrodes the earth, repairs are made, vegetation flourishes and is removed, new shapes emerge and decay. This painstaking process continues until the culminating rectangular pit is revealed. In Act 2, structure becomes site. I document repeated self- victimization, blurring the line between spectator and subject. These actions are memorialized in Act 3; the life-scale performance photographs will be buried in the earthwork and the site landscaped.

Through protracted labor at my home and obsessive documentation in photographs and video, I attempt to avoid moral certitudes or the static gesture of a monument. My artistic practice reaches for personal and public ownership of collective traumas that have shaped our world.”


Ben Altman received a BS in Physics from University College London and has completed the MARK Professional Development program as well as the MARK Alumni Consultant Training program at NYFA. He has exhibited widely including at Light Work (Syracuse, NY); Kopeikin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); Houston Center for Photography; Corners Gallery (Ithaca, NY); the Kimmel Center Galleries at New York University; and Smack Mellon (Brooklyn, NY), amongst others. Altman was listed as one of Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 in 2015 and was also the recipient of Houston Center for Photography’s Fellowship award in 2015. His work has been published in numerous publications including Feature Shoot and Lenscratch.

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