Ben Altman

Ben Altman



The More That Is Taken Away is an earthwork excavated by hand, together with various performances at the site. The work was conceived as a mass grave behind my house. Three loosely-divided Acts form the project, which is in its sixth year.

In Act 1, my excavation evolved over several years through a series of evanescent forms, ultimately becoming a simple pit, mound, and watchtower. The site is approximately sixty by ten feet, plus the pile of dirt and some surrounding land. Each form was recorded with an 8×10 view camera whilst in process, when completed, and as it decayed from weather and vegetation. I deliberately lost weight, worked through bad weather, and patched one set of inadequate clothes throughout.

In Act 2, I photographed myself repeatedly in the excavation. For Act 3 these images were printed life-size on cotton, placed in the earthwork, and then buried. Once refilled, the site will be landscaped. Installations are created from the photographs, shown here in sequence, together with a complete video record of my actions.

Visit for sample video, installation photographs, and performance photographs.

Histories of atrocity leave us feeling diminished in our humanity. I believe some of that ground can be reclaimed by actively confronting them. I find that bringing intractable questions to my own space and body and occupying a constellation of roles is generative and restorative. Traces are how we know of these episodes. For The More That Is Taken Away, access is through traces of sculptures that no longer exist and of actions performed in private.



Ben Altman trained as an artist by studying Physics, towing icebergs, racing sailboats, and working in commercial photography. His projects use photographs, installation, video, sculpture, and participation. His work was awarded the Houston Center for Photography’s 2015 Fellowship, the 2015 Critical Mass Top 50, the 2014 Critical Mass Finalists, and many others. In 2016, he showed Site/Sight at Light Work, Syracuse, NY. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, North Carolina, Indiana, Rhode Island, Texas, London, UK, and in Poland. His work is available from Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.


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