Benjamin Orlow:

An Opera in Eight Acts


24h screeing | January 20th to January 21st
From 7am Friday morning to 7am Saturday morning Sinne is open for 24hrs when Benjamin Orlow’s film “An Opera in Eight Acts” is shown in its entirety.

0700 breakfast
1400 snack
1900 evening snack

If you plan on staying for a while, we recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag, warm clothes and a camping mattress. The artist is present during the event.



Sinne starts 2017 with the exhibition An Opera in Eight Acts by Benjamin Orlow. Orlow showed at Sinne in 2014 and is now back with a new video work. In recent years, he has worked on a series of documentary pieces in which he himself, in voice or image, enters into existing settings and contexts. An Opera in Eight Acts is also an outcome of this approach. An Opera in Eight Acts is a 24-hour documentary video work incorporating elements from dance, opera and performance. Orlow recorded the material in An Opera in Eight Acts during his time in the Finnish army.

Benjamin Orlow was 30 years old. He had just got a working grant and was intending to commence his artistic labours in London. He had begun a number of art projects and had exhibitions forthcoming. In the midst of all this, he was informed that he could no longer postpone his military service at home in Finland. Despite the mass of complications that this caused, he took this urgent task firmly in hand, he read Soldatens handbok (The Soldier’s Manual), and packed his belongings and filming equipment.

The army is a myth-enshrouded, isolated world that keeps itself in the background. And yet it is emphatically present in our everyday lives, it leaves a stain on the individual and sets the tone for our society. The army leaves its mark, and lives on in the form of memories and stories. It comes into homes and workplaces, and is a topic of conversation around meal tables and at parties. With An Opera in Eight Acts Benjamin Orlow creates his own story. He breaks down the romance and the gilt edging, and shows as honest a picture as possible of his own experiences in the army. He gives us an insight into a hierarchical, disciplined institution that is physically and mentally exhausting. The film follows Orlow’s development. As the work progresses, he becomes increasingly adept at dealing with crisis situations and at conflict resolution. We see him take part in exercises, in training, in role play, and in alternative war scenarios inspired by the global political climate. In an artificial hierarchical community individuality is dissolved, with personal impulses broken down and replaced by a collective will. Orlow becomes an insect in a swarm. In the surrealistic, nocturnal dream episodes the individual is exposed again, and we see total confusion.

In An Opera in Eight Acts Orlow has condensed his entire time in the army into a single day. The material is structured like an opera in several acts, while the exhibition’s program leaflet sets out clearly what is happening at the different hours of the day. At the same time, he has constructed the film so that the events unfold in real time. The morning footage has been taken in the morning, the evening footage in the evening, and so on. Orlow employs very long takes. Sometimes, the narrative editing is completely absent, and he lets the images and events speak for themselves. An Opera in Eight Acts changes the way we see the moving image. In real time viewers are put in a situation in which they can live with, feel for and relate to what is actually happening in and outside the image. Orlow shifts the camera between different places and events, but he does not himself direct the narrative. By incorporating elements like song and dance he re-contextualizes material that could otherwise be seen as private video footage made for something that has references in propaganda films and musicals.

Markus Åström

The texts read in the film are from Soldatens handbok (The Solider’s Manual)
Solider and voice: Frida Josefin Österberg
Dance and choregraphy: Sandra Lolax
Language: Swedish and Finnish
Despite the nature of the exhibition, Sinne is open 11:00-17:00.
At other times, the film can be seen on monitors in Sinne’s show window.
On Friday, January 20, Sinne will open at 7:00 and breakfast will be served. The gallery will then stay open for 24 hours, until Saturday morning at 7:00.

Benjamin Orlow (b.1984) lives and works in London. He graduated with an MFA degree from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2012. He has had works in several international group exhibitions and film screenings. He is now exhibiting simultaneously with Karoliina Hellberg in Economy Plus at Elverket in Tammisaari. Economy Plus will be open until January 15.


Past program