Robert Beavers (b. 1949)
The Ground (1993-2001)
The Ground
1993-2001, 35mm, colour, sound, 20’
Cast: Robert Beavers. Filmed in Greece (Island of Hydra).

“What lives in the space between the stones, in the space cupped between my hand and my chest? Filmmaker/stonemason. A tower or ruin of rememberance. With each swing of the hammer I cut into the image and the sound rises from the chisel. A rhythm, marked by repetition and animated by variation; strokes of hammer and fist, resounding in dialogue. In this space which the film creates, emptiness gains a conour strong enough for the spectator to see more than the image – a space permitting vision in addition to sight”. (RB).

A film such as The Ground (worked on between roughly 1993 and 2001 — Beavers is deliberately circumspect about his dates) is a perfect example. In making a study of the rocky terrain of the island of Hydra, Beavers' editing and use of careful refocusing results in subtle, unforced but highly persuasive visual parallels. Most of his shots are at a straight angle to their subject, but Beavers frequently reframes his images by apparently adjusting his lens or resituating his camera in relation to the subject. So, rather than roving with a mobile camera, or fragmenting the objects with harsh edits, Beavers seems to take us gently along the X, Y and Z axes of the visual field.

What's more, Beavers doesn't typically move us from shot to shot of a single subject. His films are almost all sestinas or villanelles on a set of related motifs. The Ground interlaces the landscape with, for example, a stonecutter and a naked male torso with a cupped hand, moving toward us in a gesture of offering or supplication. When we see Beavers' frame circle into darkness, as if he's changing the lens plate, it's another image that slides into place. While this is a highly unique formal maneuver all on its own — given that it essentially primes the viewer to anticipate a closer view of what we are looking at and then, by giving us something else, makes Beavers' poetic condensations palpably felt — this approach is also part and parcel of the European aesthetic into which Beavers, it seems, is trying to induct the seventh art.