The Kitchen // August 27-October 5
Modern Painters, December 2013
Remarking on the distinction between Bender’s video work and the discourse surrounding originality that informed her appropriationist peers—including Robert Longo (her partner) and Cindy Sherman (Longo’s ex)— Jonathan Crary wrote, “the materials Bender deploys are already fundamentally dislocated and have been subjected to so many levels of reprocessing that the truth of a source becomes inaccessible and irrelevant.”
The late artist’s videos, which she started making in the Baudrillard-influenced mid ’80s, took two forms: multichannel theatrical “performances” and single-channel works. of the former, Total Recall, 1987, takes center stage in the Kitchen’s ground-level black-box theater. with an electronic soundtrack that still sounds edgy, its images of abstract computer graphics, logos from GE and AT&T, schmaltzy TV scenes, street photography, and ominous film titles suggest an apocalyptic military-industrial disaster. Upstairs, Dumping Core, a 1984 video performance at the Kitchen, contextualizes the lightning-fast edits in the commercial tV work and rock-music videos Bender created with Longo for the likes of New Order, R.E.M., and Babes in Toyland. “Style gets absorbed really fast by the culture, basically by absorbing the formal elements or the structure and then subverting the content,” Bender said prophetically in an interview with Sherman. “you just go on, learning to vary strategies; to recognize when to go underground and when to emerge.” For all her prescience, Bender has remained a footnote in ’80s art history for too long. this small show grants reconsideration of an artist whose mainstream success as a video editor has long overshadowed her contributions to media art.