Gretchen Bender “Image World” Sprüth Magers / London, Alex Bennett, δημοσίευση στο Flash Art [13/2/2023]
Obliquely affiliated with the Pictures Generation of the 1980s, Gretchen Bender’s fierce use of film and television as source material gave the white-hot stealth of her video work a mordacious wash. In conversation with peer Cindy Sherman in 1987, Bender mused on mass media as a “cannibalistic river.” With cyclopean observance she deadpanned: “There is no consciousness or mind. It’s about absorbing and converting.”1
A caustic manifestation of this is evident in Bender’s solo exhibition “Image World,” which begins with her “TV Text & Image” series (1986). A grid of nine television monitors faces the street, and another lone monitor with extended antenna occupies the furthermost wall. Each is respectively keyed to a different channel and live broadcast, every screen overlaid with choice matte-black and all-caps vinyl axioms and phrases such as: GENDER TECHNOLOGY; NARCOTICS OF SURREALISM; MILITARY RESEARCH. The abyssal dehiscence between image and text frustrates any anticipation of syntactical connection, let alone closure. Only fleetingly does the defiant — and literally defying — meta-phraseology relate to the toothless undertow and torrential tedium of its entertainment programming. In such moments the response can perhaps only ever be one of glib acknowledgment: Sunny holiday property programs beneath PEOPLE WITH AIDS? Okay. QVC plugging suet balls arranged in a twee tower beneath GENDER TECHNOLOGY? It is ripe for an apathetic eyeroll. The epic disjunct between issues of significance and the distraction induced by information’s declarative lamination of attention ultimately annihilates itself in equivalency. This is mediascape as non-space, “the flow of the pulse” rippling in the void.
The temporality of “TV Text & Image” adheres to Bender’s knowing acceptance of the works’ anticipatory loss and eventual obviation, that it would “lose [its] strength.” As she expressed further, “My [art] has to do with a temporal limit to its meaningfulness in the culture […] the only constant to the style you develop is the necessity to change it.” This paralysing quality rimes the work — through soporific dystopia does it seldom flex critical bite. The contemporaneity of the live broadcast to which these monitors are tuned could be said to dilute the “now” in which Bender worked; this coverage is arguably symptomatic of differentiated consumption and viewership, however slight. Whether one invests in questioning this relevance of content — its particularity in time — depends perhaps on a willingness to reconcile the overarching risk and inherent nihilism of diminished potency. Bender’s tolerance for loss is not a confession but a readily discerned obsolescence of material, from which the work pivots and becomes elastic, to a point of consensual eclipse.
Η συνέχεια εδώ.