James Benning has been making films since the early 1970s. His most recent works, RR and Casting a Glance (both 2007) are about freight trains crossing American landscapes and Robert Smithson’s 1970 Spiral Jetty.
"Every so often I teach a course at California Institute of the Arts entitled ‘Looking and Listening’. Each week ten or 12 students and I go somewhere to practise paying attention. We spend a whole day crossing an oilfield, an early morning watching the sky gain light, ten hours on the local buses or a night along 5th Street in the homeless section of downtown Los Angeles. We find looking and listening to be a political act, our differences in perception reflecting our individual prejudices. Occasionally I am asked to teach this course elsewhere. Last spring I did it in Mexico City. After spending the day in a large industrial area, I asked, ‘What did you see and hear?’