I was driving around New Orleans with no real destination, when I passed a guy on a bicycle, he looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. A few minutes later, I realized it was Chris Berntsen, this only solidifies his somewhat mythical creature status. He does what I try to do, only he succeeds. He seems to constantly be in transit, he consistently makes new work, & is one of the nicest people I have come to know in recent years. We interviewed him about a year ago & since then he has had shows in Montreal, New Orleans, & Philadelphia, & released a new book “The Ritual of Nothingness.”
It come’s in a xerox cardstock sleeve, black & white with a beautifully cyan out of focus portrait, gold text scribbled across in messy cursive. As I pull the book from the sleeve, I almost immediately realize, he has accomplished in one book, what I have been trying with Empty Stretch releases for years; he has kept the ethos & feel of a zine, yet translated it into book form. Photos taped in, sporadically arranged, collaged, notes written; he has stepped right inline behind the greats of Jim Goldberg’s “Raised by Wolves” & Ed Templeton’s “The Golden Age of Neglect.”
I first got into Berntsen’s work because of his photos & videos of bands & his closeness to them & I have stayed interested in his work because of that proximity. You can look at these photos & know he cares about his subjects, some faces repeat, & you can actively see the transitions of his friends, whether physically or geographically. He has spent years with these people & this is their yearbook of sorts & I can only hope to one day produce a body of work so drenched in passion & so footnoted with care.
If you haven’t previously seen his work, I urge you to get a copy of the book, as well as take another look at his website, he is constantly adding new photos & videos.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or pick up a copy at Dashwood Books in New York.