Ben Thorp Brown

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Artist Statement

The ongoing automation of work, and business models that are based on the capture and ownership of socially produced information have placed new cognitive and physical demands on our body. In my work, I investigate a particular practice within our economic system, as a way to observe the shifting terrain through which we understand what it means to be human, and to sustain ourselves within current biological and geological systems.

“Open Outcry” and “After Outcry” (img 1-6) are inspired by the nearly extinct hand signaling language of the commodities market. The video “Open Outcry” is an index of the gestures that commodities traders once used set inside of a green screen studio. In this work, a commodities trader, occasionally shown in the video frame, instructs a financial worker in the center of the frame, how to use the language. The video operates like a training video, however, the green screen and the production equipment remain in the background of all the shots, keeping the status of the video in a more ambiguous position between the pedagogical, anthropological, and the absurd. In this case, a language invented for the purpose of capitalism is eventually made obsolete by the very same system, and through this process a whole group of workers are forced to abandon their deep gestural memory in exchange for a new mode of work. The video appears as a final (and perhaps unfinished) attempt to train someone in this dying language.

In my projects, I often begin with an archival, observational phase and then seek to produce additional works which are more affectively charged. In this case, “After Outcry” was a performance work, which sought to transform the gestural language of the commodities market into a dance. Working in collaboration with choreographer/performer, Ethan Philbrick, we developed choreography for a group of dancers, who offered a new kind of fluency, and a particular agency over this language.

A similar working method was used in my project, Speculative Presence (img 7-16). “Toymakers” is a video work that captures the production of a peculiar trophy object, known as a “deal toy” or “lucite tombstone.” These objects are customized commemorative sculptures produced on the occasion of major financial transactions such as IPOs, mergers, or major real estate deals. In this work, I was interested in the physical labor and craft involved in the production of deal toys as a means to reflect on forms of work that are hidden, or abstracted in these objects and the transactions they represent.

This video is a component of a larger project called Speculative Presence, which goes a step further to create a series of sculptures that borrow from the aesthetic language of “deal toys.” In one work, I was interested in looking at the graphic patterning of the borders, another presents a series of shapes with oil and coal embedded within, and another series is a fist designed out of the waste material of the production process. The different designs created within this project do not specifically reference a single corporate transaction, and so they operate as propositions, which allows me to speculate on forms that might never be produced in such a factory (img 13), or might be utilized in the near future.



Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (Studio), New York, NY, 2013
School of Art Institute Chicago, MFA, Chicago, IL, 2012
Williams College, BA, Williamstown, MA, 2006


The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (solo) (forthcoming)
Families of Objects, curated by Marco Antonini, Abrons Art Center, New York, NY (forthcoming)
The Vienna Biennale, 24/7 the human condition. curated by Marlies Wirth, MAK, Vienna, Austria
Families of Objects, curated by Marco Antonini, Reunion, Zurich, Switzerland
NADA New York, Bischoff Projects, New York, NY
European Media Art Festival, screening, Osnabruck, Germany
Cabinet Magazine, Screening with D. Graham Burnett, Brooklyn, NY
Channels: Media, Art, and Representation, curated by Allison Young, DCCC, Media, PA
Armory Presents: Ben Thorp Brown/Bischoff Projects, The Armory Show, New York, NY
Aggro-Culture, curated by Kari Rittenbach, Holiday Cafe, Brooklyn, NY

Digital Labor: Sweatshops, Picket Lines, and Barricades, The New School, New York, NY
BRIC Biennial: Downtown Edition, curated by Elizabeth Ferrer, Jenny Gerow, Fawz Kabra, and Leslie Kerby, BRIC, Brooklyn, NY
Images Festival: Speaking Together, Toronto, Canada, Curated by Pablo de Ocampo
Speculative Presence, Bischoff Projects, Frankfurt, Germany (solo)
Les Recontres Internationales, at Gaite Lyrique and Palais de Toyko, Paris, France and Haus der Kunst, Berlin, Germany
In Practice: Chance Motives, curated by Kari Rittenbach, Sculpture Center, New York, NY
Shared Spaces: Social Media and Museum Structures organized by Gordon Hall, Erica Love, and Joao Enxuto, Whitney Museum, New York, NY

Image Employment, curated by Ailey Nash and Andrew Norm Wilson, MoMA PS1, New York, NY
VOX IX, Vox Populi Annual Juried Exhibition, Curated by Hunter Braithwaite and
Hilary Harkness, Philadelphia, PA
The Passage of a Few Persons Through A Rather Brief Unity of Time, Whitney Museum ISP Exhibition, Temp Gallery, New York, NY

Absence Makes It Real, Leroy Neiman Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
MFA Thesis Show, Curated by Pablo Helguera, Sullivan Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Baring Investigation, Parallax Gallery, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL
The Camden International Film Festival, Farnsworth Museum, Camden, ME
The Wassaic Project Summer Festival, Curated by Eve Biddle, Jeff Barnett-Winsby, Bowie Barnett-Zunino, Wassaic, NY
In a Strange Land, Calle Y Suenos, Curated by AREA Magazine, Chicago, IL
Documentary Fiction, Curated by Rachel Wetzler and Lizzie Gorfaine, Central Utah Art Center, UT


Documenting Mythologies, Kino Satellite, Direktorenhaus, Berlin, Germany
Documenting Mythologies, Harvard Film Archive, Boston, MA
Documenting Mythologies, MoMA Documentary Fortnight Series, New York, NY, Curated by Sally Berger with Maria Fosheim Lund, Andrew Ingall, and Liza Johnson


2015 Chinati Foundation Artist-in-Residence, Marfa, TX
2014-2015 NYU Visiting Scholar Program, Department of Art, New York, NY
2014-2015 LMCC Workspace Studio Residency Program, New York, NY
2012-2013 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York, NY
2012 School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John Quincy Adams’ MFA Fellowship
2008-2009 Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Video Fellowship, Creative Time, NY
2006-2007 Williams College, Florence J. Chandler (Watson) Travel Fellowship
2006 Williams College, President’s Office Fund, Art Production Grant
2005 Williams College Class of 1945 World Fellowship
2004 Williams College Class of 1960 Scholar


Falter, Observer, Stadtzeitung Vienna, 2015
Vienna Biennale Catalogue, June, 2015.
Marlies Wirth, 24/7 the human condition. Catalogue. June, 2015.
Allison Young, “Channels: Media, Art, and Representation” DCCC, March, 2015.
Max Schreir, Artsy. “Seven Young European Galleries Forging the New Armory Show Avant-Garde” March, 2015.
Elena Soboleva, Artsy. “11 Armory Show Artists You Should Already Be Collecting” March, 2015.
The New School. “Digital Labor” Catalogue, November, 2014.
Kuba Paris. “The Speculative Presence” November, 2014.
BRIC Biennial Catalogue, “Contemporary Reenactment” Jenny Gerow, September, 2014.
Images Festival. Festival Catalogue. April, 2014.
The New York Times. “Ben Thorp Brown and Vanessa Anspaugh” Feb. 7, 2014.
Kari Rittenbach, “Chance Motives” Exhibition Guide, 2014.
Ben Thorp Brown, “The Memory Image and Dubai” The State, Dubai, UAE. March 2013.
Contemporary Art Daily. “Image Employment” September 28, 2013.
Whitney Museum ISP. “The Passage of a Few Persons Through A Rather Brief Unity of Time.” Catalogue. June, 2013
Steven Thrasher. “The Wassaic Project: Our Favorite Art from Summer Festival 2011,” The Village Voice, Aug. 8, 2011
Bryce J. Renninger. “Hell and Back Again” Isn’t the Only Winner at Maine Doc Fest. Indiewire. October 3, 2011
Bert Stabler. Review: In a Strange Land. New Art City, Chicago June 13, 2011
City Weekly Utah, “Central Utah Art Center: Documentary Fiction” August 17, 2011
Sarah Lerner. “UnionDocs presents a preview of its collaborative efforts at MoMA.” Timeout NY
Lisa Riordan Seville. “UnionDocs Brings Auteurs Together.” Brooklyn Rail, April 2010.
Brown, BT, Woerner, A, Wilder, J. Ascertainment Bias and the Pattern of Nucleotide Diversity at the Human ALDH2 Locus in a Japanese Population. Journal of Molecular Evolution, Jan. 16, 2007.