James Benning

Infinite Displacement, 2013 • TONSPUR 60


In May/June of 2013 I spent 13 straight days filming in the offices, corridors, and storage facilities of the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. During that time I had access to the domed ceiling at the museum’s entranceway and made an hour-long sound recording of the noises drifting up from the floors below – a cacophony of footsteps, screams, and yells, with occasional voices, police sirens, and museum announcements. The recording is pure, without manipulation. “Infinite Displacement” is installed as an infinite sound loop in a passageway of the MuseumsQuartier as TONSPUR 60. It displaces the original recording in time and space: six months later, 43 meters below, and 153 meters southwest. The volume level is the same.
In the meantime I have completed the film (“Natural History”); it will premiere at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien in September of 2014. The film uses a fixed structure based on the digits of π = 3.1415926535… “Infinite Displacement” and “Natural History” are companion pieces created to continue the dialogue begun by Ed Ruscha when he curated “The Ancients Stole All Our Great Ideas” at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (2012) using works chosen from both the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museums, a dialogue asking for the Arts to become more inclusive, a blending of disciplines.
Studying mathematics before becoming an artist has affected my way of thinking. Consider the following proof involving the √2, a most elegant solution: Proof: the √2 is irrational
Assume the opposite, the √2 is rational, that it can be expressed as a fraction, p/q.
Then √2 = p/q, where p and q are both integers, q≠0, and p and q are not both EVEN. (The definition of a rational number)
Squaring, 2 = p2/q2
Then 2q2 = p2, therefore 2q2 is EVEN (since 2q2 has a factor of 2), and p2 must also be EVEN, and p is EVEN. Therefore p = 2r where r is an integer.
Then 2q2 = (2r)2, substituting 2r for p. (since p is EVEN, it has a factor of 2).
And 2q2 = 4r2
Then q2 = 2r2, since 2r2 is EVEN, therefore q2 is EVEN, and q is EVEN.
Since both p and q are EVEN, the assumption is false, and the √2 cannot be rational, so it must be irrational, √2 = 1.4142135623…

James Benning, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 1942, lives and works in Val Verde, California.

Opening: Su 24.11.13, 5pm
Opening words:
Georg Weckwerth [artistic director TONSPUR]
Tanja Vrvilo [performer, film curator] – read


  • James Benning [USA]*
  • Infinite Displacement, 2013
  • 8-channel sound installation,
  • 7-part series of images
  • Length 60.00 min
  • Sound recording by James Benning
  • Thanks to neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien,
  • Vienna Art Week, Videonale Bonn
  • *44th TONSPUR-Artist-in-Residence at quartier21/MQ
  • 25.11.13–22.02.14
  • MuseumsQuartier Wien
  • TONSPUR_passage
  • [between MQ court 7 and 8]
  • Daily 10am to 8pm