This fall, The Block is thrilled to welcome Ben Creech to the staff as Film / Video and Audio Technician. Ben runs the projection booth in collaboration with the Block Cinema team, casting images onto the screen, managing light and sound for public events, assisting faculty with tech in the auditorium, and overseeing other technical concerns at The Block. We are excited to have Ben’s expertise around film and imaging technologies… and, of course movies themselves.
We sat down with Ben to learn more about his background and love of cinema.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your field of study?
My general field of study is Cinema, as a subset of classical Humanities, and I’ve been on many journeys into the heart of what that might be in our time. I have worked at the alternative video store Wild and Woolly in Louisville, as well as Oscilloscope Labs (home of the Beastie Boys) in New York City, I ran an underground “rogue cinema” out of Logan Square in Chicago for a few years and have helped “above ground” festivals like Reeling, CIMMFest, and Flyover take place. I moved to Chicago initially to get my MA in Humanities/Cinema at UChicago before becoming a film studies adjunct professor, and later started making my own films and other creative projects, which took me to SAIC where I just got my MFA. I have made hundreds of my own films, which have played all over Chicago and the world, and nowadays, I also produce esoteric cinephile merch and am finishing a sort of folk film history book on the Kentucky auteur William Girdler, the rankest of amateurs. Turns out, I wear many hats.
How did you find your way to the museum work?
In a lot of ways, I feel I have always been headed towards museum work. In first grade, my folks motivated me to behave in class with a reward of my choice, and I demanded they take me to an art museum – which meant a four-hour drive to central Indiana. Anytime I had the chance to visit Chicago, echoing a beloved movie scene, I insisted we stop at the Art Institute to see Nighthawks; decades later, I would walk those halls as a student, and make films using the artworks inside. I have always been obsessed with art and creativity, and museums are spaces where those forces are taken seriously.
What particularly interests you about working within the context of a campus art museum?
A campus museum differs in a key respect from classical museums, in that the audience isn’t imagined as just a civic multitude, but feels focused on the students and research within the ecosystem of the university, meaning that dialogue is both able to be at a higher level and that there is tremendous work put in to make it accessible to folks whose first encounter or exposure to these ideas might be here. It has a clear sense of purpose and direction that centers pedagogy – and while all museums may seek these things in general, I think a campus museum is where it actually happens.
What drew you to the Block Museum? What are you looking forward to working on?
The Block Cinema. For a decade now, The Block Cinema has informed my personal artmaking and curatorial practices – I can recall an event here with Ahmad Kiarostami, son of Abbas, who plugged his laptop into the AUX and freestyle VJed a number of unseen, variably related B-Sides by his recently passed father. It was a unique experience of film viewing, rules and structures seemed folded towards new possibilities. Other times, the Block would feel like the only place I could rely on to screen works by Suneil Sanzgiri or Fox Maxy, works of the contemporary avant-garde, alongside, say, Roger Corman or Frank Borzage, older work from new perspectives. This space is sacred, and I look forward to honoring that.
What museum exhibitions or programs (outside the Block) have inspired you lately?
I’m a big fan of the work small and underground cinema spaces are doing in our area, some that come to mind lately are Sweet Void Cinema’s monthly call for local work – they are such a great community and platform putting work on screen for free down in Humboldt Park, and this program especially allows filmmakers to be directly connected to their audiences in an intimate fashion. Roman Susan Gallery near Loyola has been doing a similarly excellent program called Screen Test, where they screen local works that haven’t been shown before. There is something exciting about collapsing the barrier for entry and seeing what inventive possibilities present themselves.
What are you most looking forward to at The Block?
I’m excited to meet the challenge of mounting moving image work at the highest technical level possible. Everything that we screen will have diverse interests and appeals – in recent years I would be excited to attend a few screenings per quarter, but now it’s like a dream, just on a cinephile basis, being here every week because I’m helping to make the show happen. In this role, I am also lucky to have a privileged intimacy with the work and creatives that pass through our spaces – often working with them one one-on-one and handling their materials myself to ensure the image hits effectively. I’m an incurable fan of all things cinema, and I can’t wait to encounter everything I wouldn’t even know to anticipate.