In his short films and video works Guy Ben-Ner dissolves the boundaries between his studio practice, his domestic life, and the everyday world. Inspired by the silent films of Buster Keaton, the conceptual work of Bruce Nauman and the classic American sit-com, Ben-Ner has developed his own form of conceptual comedy, which whilst entertaining, also raises provocative questions regarding the nature of family, domesticity, and the varied positive and negative relationships found within the family structure.
Portraying himself, his wife and his two children, Stealing Beauty is reminiscent of a family sit-com, but was shot in various IKEA showrooms located in 3 different countries. The prototype rooms within the Ikea stores provided the film sets of a family house within which the Ben-Ner family attempt to teach their youngest son about the meaning of ownership when he comes home from school with a note indicating he was caught stealing money from a peer. The ensuing film explores the themes of private property, stealing, and the family as an emotional and moral barometer.
Taking Ikea's request that visitors to the store 'feel at home' literally, Ben-Ner and his family occupy the domestic spaces as though they were their own. A model bedroom becomes a private, intimate place when Ben-Ner and his wife are alone in bed, but is immediately transformed into a public space when consumers with Ikea yellow shopping bags enter the frame. Blurring the boundaries of public and private spaces, Stealing Beauty confuses the store's directive to market private spaces within a public environment.
Because Ben-Ner did not ask permission to film in the various Ikea stores, the film was shot in secrecy, silently, like an act of theft. Stealing the spaces of the store, Ben-Ner transforms the public representation of a private space into a private space, thereby challenging not only the store's ownership of the mock rooms, but also the very notion of private property. Every time he was caught and asked to leave, Ben-Ner had to find a different branch of the store to continue filming. Being caught, whilst usually the desired outcome when someone commits a theft, in this instance, disturbs the movie's smooth continuity, as different kitchens or living-rooms were used within a single scene. As a result the film also becomes a visual catalogue of ideal living spaces and explores what 'home' might be like if we subscribed to the marketer's presentation of it.