Art Review by artist Maite Rodriguez. Tracking the Thrill by Gretchen Bender at the Kitchen. 512 West 19th Street, Chelsea, New York.
Once the site of many of Bender´s art projects the Kitchen situated in the heart of New Yorks art scene, presents the multiscreen work of Gretchen Bender. It takes an unusual form of a single-screen documentary video conveying Bender´s obsession with sensory overload, the implication of corporate culture invading private life, and the perplexity between “reality” and “television”. The name ¨Tracking the Thrill¨ was a phrase Bender used to explain her work, along side the ¨electronic theatre¨. It provides a welcome reintroduction to her formidable powers.
Originally curated by Philip Vanderhyden for The Poor Farm, an alternative space in Little Wolf, Wisc. it is presented by Lumi Tan and Tim Griffin. Her work is exhibited alongside music videos she edited for well-known bands like Megadeth, R.E.M. and New Order, and the credits she created in 1988 for the Fox network’s “America’s Most Wanted.” However the centrepiece to the exhibition is an impressive art installation ¨Total Recall¨. Originally exhibited at The Kitchen in 1987, it consists of an 18-minute combination of image, sound, and computer animation. The title comes from the movie “Total Recall,” directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in production when Bender made this installation work (she pulled the title from announcements in “Variety” magazine), but did not appear in theatres until 1990. The installation is quite unique as it merges the immersive theatre or film experience with the consumer, standing in a big-box store in front of a bank of televisions. Held captive by the spectacle, your eye wanders over the multiplicity of moving images. Clips sampled from the Oliver Stone movie “Salvador” (1986) alternate with abstract animations and the corporate logos of GE, ABC News, CBS, TRW, Rockwell International, and the Olympics, which look in this context like fragments from modernist films or paintings.
Bender (1951-2004) was among the most prescient yet overlooked figures of her generation. She was ahead of her time as she anticipated our current state of image saturation, using scaffolds of screens, hypnotic repetitions of appropriated television footage, and aggressive sound as a critical match for an emerging cultural field of special effects and immersive viewing experiences. A great exhibition, unique and bursting with art history.
Visit Maite Rodriguez online art gallery http://maiterodriguez.es/