‘By Appointment’: Origin of the Species, by Ben Rivers

25 March 2020 By

This film was online from 12.00, 25 March 2020 to 12.00, 26 March 2020

Made possible due to the generosity of the artist and Kate MacGarry, our first ‘By Appointment’ film is Ben Rivers’ 2008 work Origin of the Species. The Contemporary Art Society acquired this film in 2014 for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery jointly through our Collections Fund.

Ben Rivers treads a line between documentary and fiction in his work. Often following and filming people who have in some way separated themselves from society, the raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.

Origin of The Species, 2008 is a portrait of an elderly man living alone in a remote part of Inverness-shire. The man devises his own technologies for day-to-day subsistence while pondering the workings of the universe and the scope of human knowledge.

The images in the film concentrate on his world: the house he has built for himself, his contraptions and his garden as it merges into the wilderness. Over these we hear “S” discussing his take on life on Earth and humans place upon it.

“Some things didn’t really matter, you know, some mutations didn’t matter all that much…they were neither beneficial to survival nor detrimental to survival…but if they just hung on, there’d come a time when…that was the thing that saved the day.” 



Founded in 2012, the Collections Fund is designed to support the acquisition of significant contemporary works to be gifted to Contemporary Art Society museum members across the UK. A key aim of the scheme is to draw together the knowledge, experience and expertise of private collectors with that of museum curators in a short and intense programme of research leading to an acquisition. The scheme provides curators with a framework for research, including studio visits and discussion with the members of the Collections Fund Committee. The Collections Fund in 2014 consisted of: Hugo Brown, Donall Curtin, Theo Danjuma, Helen Janecek, Midge Palley, Paul Smith, Cathy Wills and Anna Yang.