Private Project

The More That Is Taken Away

An artist starts to dig behind his house. He finds nothing - and everything.

The More That Is Taken Away is a 90-minute film that meditates on inheriting histories of genocide. The artist/filmmaker created an earthwork with hand tools, an excavation sixty feet long and ten feet wide, a construct and a site of performance.

Originally planned to take the several months, the project spread over nine years, deepening its concepts.

The film is constructed from video and photographs shot unassisted during the work.

Production and post-production were supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship and by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts. The More That Is Taken Away is a fiscally sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

  • Ben Altman
  • Ben Altman
    Key Cast
  • Ben Altman
  • Ben Altman
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Feature, Other
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 30, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Ben Altman

Ben Altman (b. 1953) trained as an artist by studying Physics, towing icebergs, racing sailboats, and working in commercial photography. A naturalized U.S. citizen of British origin, his work responds to episodes of mass violence and what it means to inherit such histories. Altman works in a wide variety of media; The More That Is Taken Away is his first feature-length film.

In 2019 Altman was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, an Individual Artist Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and a New York Foundation for the Arts NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship. Other awards include the Houston Center for Photography’s 2015 Fellowship and the 2015 Critical Mass Top 50. He has exhibited widely.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

As a multidisciplinary artist, my work responds to violent turning points of modern history, how they have formed our world, and what it means to inherit such collective traumas. I mourn, memorialize, and activate these intractable episodes by recording performances at my home and by visiting sites of past atrocities. At home I explore the roles of perpetrator, victim, bystander, and observer, while at sites I photograph tourists, signage, architecture, and landscaping.

My primary media are video and photography but I also draw ideas and materials from a range of practices including earth art, studio art, sound art, sculpture, installation, and endurance labor. My presentations vary from film to multi-disciplinary and interactive to traditional exhibitions.

My mother was Anglican and my father Jewish. Although only collateral members of my father’s family were caught up in the Holocaust, that connection underlies my concerns. As a British-born naturalized US citizen, my mixed origins and migration often lead me to frame my ideas with questions of home and belonging. I continue to develop my practice towards personal and public understanding of mass violence.