Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan, and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation

January 31 – May 4, 2008

Visitors watch Guy Ben-Ner's Wild Boy (2004) from a carpeted hill that re-creates the woodland set the artist built in his kitchen. Photo by Jim Newberry.

Visitors watch Guy Ben-Ner's Wild Boy (2004) from a carpeted hill that re-creates the woodland set the artist built in his kitchen. Photo by Jim Newberry.

While adaptation is a common practice in popular culture, it is perhaps less well known as a practice in contemporary art.

This exhibition looked at the use of adaptation in the work of four leading artists: Guy Ben-Ner, Arturo Herrera, Catherine Sullivan, and Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation. These artists have transformed source material to make their own adapted works of art, re-envisioning classic literature, painting, film, ballet, and even e-mail as new video installations.

Adaptation is a tightly focused exhibition: each of the four artists is represented by one or two significant video installations. The works include Guy Ben-Ner’s Moby Dick (2000) and Wild Boy (2004), respectively adapted from Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel and François Truffaut’s film L’enfant sauvage (The Wild Child, 1970); Arturo Herrera’s Les Noces (The Wedding, 2007), an animated adaptation of the ballet of the same name by Igor Stravinsky; Catherine Sullivan’s Triangle of Need (2007), which builds from a notorious and ubiquitous type of mass e-mail scam, as well as a smaller-scale new work developed in collaboration with students from the University of Chicago; and Eve Sussman and The Rufus Corporation’s The Rape of the Sabine Women (2006), a feature-length contemporary retelling of the Roman myth that draws inspiration from an eighteenth-century painting.

While addressing questions of fidelity and creativity, the exhibition generates new understanding of the use of adaptation as a practice in contemporary art. It includes the United States museum premieres of The Rape of the Sabine Women and Les Noces, Herrera’s first video installation.


Access the online exhibition catalogue at

Related programs

Voices: Arturo Herrera
January 28, 2008

Teacher Workshop with Guy Ben-Ner
January 29, 2008

Director's Council Preview
January 30, 2008

Opening Reception and Panel Discussion
January 31, 2008

Family Day: Lights, Camera, Art!
February 24, 2008

The Underworld: Readings from Homer, Virgil, and Dante
February 28, 2008

Artist Talk: Catherine Sullivan
April 17, 2008

Baroque Adaptations: Cantata Collegium
May 1, 2008

Smart Focus: Curator Talk
May 4, 2008

Film Series

Doc Films hosts a series of films that reveal the strategies that filmmakers have used when adapting texts traditionally considered unfilmable


Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, November 22, 2008 – March 22, 2009

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 8 – August 16, 2009

Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, October 17, 2010 – January 9, 2011