Discover the work of American multimedia artist Gretchen Bender (1951–2004). Gretchen Bender presents the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK to date and showcases a selection of her immersive pioneering multimedia installations.
Unseen for 20 years, a major highlight of the exhibition is a reconstruction of Bender’s seminal video performance Total Recall (1987). A monumental 24-monitor multi-projection screen installation, Total Recall explores the accelerated image-flow of television and exemplifies Bender’s concept of ‘electronic theatre’, in which she aimed to infiltrate the corporate domain of mass media representation by overloading the viewer with information.
Combining stacked monitors and an aggressive barrage of edited footage of Cold War-era military hardware, animated corporate logos, Hollywood film iconography and commercials for consumer recording devices, the work provides a mesmerising critique of the violence and commoditisation of images in society.
Associated with the ‘Pictures Generation’ of artists, who were concerned with appropriating mass media imagery and its clichés for critical ends, she also made commercial work, including music videos, often with American painter and sculptor Robert Longo, for bands including New Order, Megadeth, R.E.M. and Babes in Toyland. In response to an increase of political and corporate ideologies being embedded into mass media, Bender developed a critically acclaimed body of work across a range of media, becoming renowned for her large-scale video theatre installations and tin sign screen prints.
Within a culture saturated by corporate self-representation, it is, Bender argued, images themselves that prevent us from perceiving the realities of the world. Through its critical focus on an accelerated mass media and its relationship to corporate ideology and perception, many of the ideas found in Bender’s work remain relevant in our current age of digital economy, where accelerated access to imagery and ideas are commonplace.
Both prescient and pioneering, Bender anticipated our current state of image saturation, saying in 1987:
I think of the media as a cannibalistic river. A flow or current that absorbs everything.
Bender’s work in photography, film and installation addresses this relentless stream of information and images which emanates from sources including movies, television, and advertising.
Gretchen Bender is exhibited alongside Transmitting Andy Warhol.