Ericka Beckman

19 January - 23 February 2019

Ericka Beckman

January 19 - February 23, 2019


Philip Martin Gallery is pleased to present two films by Ericka Beckman: “Frame UP” (2005) and “Tension Building” (2016). 


Philip Martin Gallery's presentation of “Frame UP” and “Tension Building” follows on its previous exhibition of “Switch Center" (2002). These three films use the structure of architecture and games to investigate labor and capital, social roles and social responsibilities. All three films were shot on location, rather than in a black box, as was Beckman's method in her earlier works.


In 2005, Walker Art Center senior curator of Film/Video Sheryl Mousley approached Beckman to film during the construction of the museum’s new building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. (“Switch Center,” which Beckman had just completed, was filmed in a former Soviet-era water treatment plant in Budapest.) For “Frame UP,” Beckman set up multiple cameras at the perimeter of the Walker building site to capture its construction through time-lapse photography. Beckman used Super 8, High 8 and VHS video and edited throughout the shooting process.


Beckman recalled the process of making “Frame UP” in a recent interview with the Walker’s Bentson film scholar Isla Leaver-Yap: “The construction site became the pinball [machine]“backglass” for the structure of this film. I looked at the workers as dancers. With my camera, I followed the movement of materials through this space and, specifically, how they were transported and handled by workers. I looked for various pinball references on the construction site – that meant looking for shafts, for paddles, inclines and sockets.” Beckman points out her belief that the body communicates “through signs and gestures.” 


In “Frame UP,” the movement of the “ball” leads the viewer through its two-screen presentation, the action of the players, and a soundscape composed of recordings Beckman accumulated of toys, games and an actual pinball machine. Beckman has long-standing interest in games as a means by which individuals in society learn social roles. The performers in Beckman’s work are often cast as “players.” These players then participate in a narrative in which they seek to complete a task or win a competition, the rules of which explore both economics and gender.  


“Tension Building” which was shot on location at both Harvard Stadium in Boston and Artemio Franchi Muncipal Stadium in Florence, Italy. Beckman also used architectural models. Spectator sport has been a subject of such Beckman works as “You the Better” (1983). Beckman updated “Tension Building” after the election of Donald Trump “to bring out a critique of spectacle in American culture." Beckman adds that, "'You the Better' features spectacle sports; the guys perform to a set of rules but miss the whole point of what they’re doing. That idea of spectacle sports is enhanced in 'Tension Building,' which gnaws at American culture and what we have become recently.” Through shots that emphasize the circularity and structure of the stadium, and the repetitive action of the football players and cheerleaders, Beckman’s work reflects on the games, societal and otherwise that we are all programmed to play.


Philip Martin Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-6pm and by appointment. For further information and images please contact the gallery at +310-559-0100 or

Philip Martin Gallery
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034