Gretchen Bender: Tracking the Thrill at the Kitchen

Excerpt / The posthumous, mini-retrospective at the Kitchen for video artist Gretchen Bender “Tracking the Thrill” restages two of her important installation works from the 1980s, Total Recall (1987) and Wild Dead (1984), along with a selection of music videos produced or directed by the artist. Bender’s practice in the 1980s was quite prescient in its critique of computerized networks, while also blasting television’s mind-numbing mediocrity. With scores by downtown musician Stuart Argabright (Ike Yard, Death Comet Crew), these two works activate an enormous wall of screens in order to totally inundate the viewer. As noted by art historian Jonathan Crary in an April 1984 review for Art in America, Bender appropriated images to draw attention to the flattening of all images as they become data flow. While Bender is sometimes lumped in with her contemporaries in the Pictures Generation, like Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine, Crary argues that in striking contrast to these artists’ reassembled, but discrete, images, Bender’s layers of processing remove their singularity, pushing them towards a homogenous overdrive. Bender’s work is distinct in its intense magnification of the unthinkable immensity of information, dependent on a profit-minded corporate infrastructure. On that point, Bender’s re-entrance into the limelight could not be more timely.

— “Gretchen Bender: Tracking the Thrill at the Kitchen” The Wire, December 2013, p. 75