It’s future in exhibition may be limited to museums and James Benning retrospectives, but Benning’s “13 Lakes” is a singular cinematic experience, equally meditative and exciting, and ultimately exhilarating. What Benning offers, basically, is a lesson in relativity: In a virtual vacuum of action, the blink of an eye is high drama.
So is a stare. Shot across the United States, from Jackson Lake, Wyo., to Lake Oneida, N.Y., “13 Lakes” consists of 13, 10-minute, stationary shots of the various bodies of water, captured in various states of light, weather and disturbance, accented by sounds ranging from lapping water to gunshots, some as quietly profound as a Rothko triptych, others roiled by race boats and high wind. The vagaries of perception are what Benning is trying to capture and crystallize — the world, as we see, is in a state of perpetually, violent change, but we usually never catch on. “13 Lakes” makes you sit down and notice.