Brother Islands at State Property group exhibition
Opens September 15, 2017 at Andrew Freedman Home Swing Space
900 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10451


Brother Islands is an ‘expanded documentary’ about involuntary isolation and its machinery, as seen through the sights and sounds of two East River islands.  The sights, sounds and stories of these quarantines are presented in formats that stretch the limits of conventional documentaries: video paintings, QR code texts, installations and a sold out performance at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center  “MIXER” series.


Half a century since its abandonment, North Brother Island fades from New York City’s map as nature swallows this one block square quarantine city. Just down the East River, Ward’s Island warehouses New York’s homeless and mentally ill in a dozen immense buildings clustered under the Triborough Bridge.


Brother Islands combines physical theater, audio, video and stereoscopic photography to paint a haunting picture of these ill-fated places. The performers explore location in relationship to history, memory, and representation within a format that could be described as “expanded documentary”. Audio and video field recordings become raw materials for live digital manipulation; by presenting these sights and sounds around the centralized audience, a documentary movie becomes a performance of a place.


Brother Islands by Benton C Bainbridge and collaborators:
Music Composer: Ross Goldstein
Co-director/Designer: Minou Maguna
Stereo Photographer: Matthew Schlanger
Performer (“Poltergeists”): Ryder Cooley
Performer (“Poltergeists”): Dan Winckler
Ghost FX/Performer (“Tex”): Bill Etra
Ghost Video FX: vade (Anton Marini)
Sonic Spatialization: Jesse Stiles
Editor/Live Camera: Eric Barry Drasin





Brother Islands combines theatre, audio, video and stereoscopic photography to paint a haunting picture of these ill-fated places.

Co-directed by Eyebeam Fellow Benton C Bainbridge and designer Minou Maguna, Brother Islands incorporates the photography of Matthew Schlanger, music of Ross Goldstein and performance of Ryder Cooley and Dan Winckler, who play ghosts from the island’s past.

The use of Ward’s Island’s as a resting ground for the marginalized traces back through the turn of the century, when it contained the world’s largest psychiatric hospital. As the location of one of the world’s highest capacity sewage treatment centers, the island remains a terminal for the city’s refuse.

North Brother Island’s history is similarly bleak. Notorious as a harsh quarantine and locus of misfortunate legends like Typhoid Mary and the General Slocum ferry disaster, after decades of failed schemes to repurpose the land have gone fruitless, North Brother has literally gone to the birds. Off-limit to visitors, the island is now a vital resting place for herons, egrets and other migrants.

In November 2006 Bainbridge and Schlanger gained special permission to join a team from the NYC Parks Department team to travel to and photograph North Brother, which led to the creation of Brother Islands.

Brother Islands begins at 8pm, followed by The Jesse Stiles 3000, Vade and Bill Etra performing from 9-10pm. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advance. Seating is limited.

MIXER was curated and produced by Paul Amitai, Eyebeam program manager

In 2012, another exhibit of Brother Islands – this time as an interactive window installation for the Eyebeam 15th Anniversary Programming Series

Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 21, 5:30PM – 7:30PM.

The single-channel media artwork Brother Islands is a reworking of a performance piece that premiered at Eyebeam’s MIXER series in 2007 to a sold out audience. This new work is an experimental documentary in the form of a looping video painting. Close inspection of the abstract, layered video imagery reveals glimpses of a long abandoned island quarantine. QR codes frame the video and link to a first-person account of island life in today’s homeless shelters. This work is a collaboration between Eyebeam alum Benton C Bainbridge, who produced and conceptualized the video, with original text by Bill Etra.


The video painting Brother Islands also showed at Longwood Art Gallery in the group exhibition “Home is Where the Bronx Is” in 2012. Home Is Where the Bronx Is presented recent work by 2010 and 2011 BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Awards in visual arts and media featuring the works of Justin Allen, Benton C Bainbridge, Gerardo Ciprian, Vidal Centeno, Michael Cuomo, Donna Diamond, Darnell Edwards, Nicolas Dumit Estevez, Michael Ferris, Jr., Xavier Figueroa, Nadia Hallgren, Skowmon Hastanan, Lisa Lebofsky, Ebony Lewis, Ira Merritt, Josh Millis, Ronny Quevedo, Diana Rivera, Hrvoje Slovenc, Christy Speakman, and Pam Sporn. Inspired by the phrase “home is where the heart is”, the exhibition focused on the notion of home, cultural and political assimilation, personal narratives and histories, the construction of identity, the environment, the natural and urban landscape, and subjective spaces. These notions of home were represented in drawings, mix media work, painting, photography, sculpture and video.

Brother Islands Screening
Thursday, July 26 | 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos Community College
450 Grand Concourse, C-190
Bronx, NY 10451

Screening of BRIO media artist Benton C Bainbridge’s Brother Islands (2012, video, color, silent, 33:19 minutes) which combines physical theater, audio, video and stereoscopic photography to paint a haunting picture of these ill-fated places.

MIXER Not to be outdone by other cultural-turned-party institutions around town, Eyebeam gallery, devoted to high-tech projects and research, is now starting its own art-and-fun series, Mixer. The inaugural event begins Saturday with a live multimedia performance by the video artist Benton C Bainbridge. In “Brother Islands (Places to Lose People),” above, Mr. Bainbridge, who was a recent Eyebeam teaching fellow, documents the history of two abandoned East River islands; using video, photos, music and actors playing ghosts, he hopes to explore the idea and mechanics of quarantine.

The setup will help: the work will literally surround the audience, who sit in the middle of six 10-foot-tall screens, said Paul Amitai, Eyebeam’s program and events coordinator. (Each Mixer event is organized around a theme; Saturday’s is “place.”) After the video opera, Eyebeam’s 8,000-square-foot warehouse space will be transformed into a dance party, with laptop electro by the D.J. Jesse Stiles 3000 and live video mixing by Vade and the 1970s synthesizer pioneer Bill Etra, . It’s also an opportunity for the audience to interact with the technology.

“They could play around with some of the tools that Benton was using,” Mr. Amitai said. “Or they could just zone out and watch.” The next Mixer, scheduled for Feb. 23, will most likely address sustainability and the environment; the lineup includes the British group D-Fuse, which has done video collaborations with Beck. “They’ll be the headlining A/V act,” Mr. Amitai said, adding that he meant that in a cool way. (Saturday at 8 p.m., Eyebeam, 540 West 21st Street, Chelsea,; $10.) MELENA RYZIK


This project is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency, and with support from the Experimental Television Center.  Brother Islands received an Individual Artists Film & Media / New Tech Production grant in FY10 through fiscal sponsor Experimental TV Center.