The Schinkel Pavillon presents the monumental work by American artist Bender (1951-2004) in Berlin for the first time. Gretchen Bender’s work has only recently been re-evaluated in light of a recognition of her pioneering role. The exhibition allows a unique visual channel into the radical transitions of the 1980s, which – as in Bender’s work – become apparent as the prelude of the coming media revolution of the digital.
Total Recall assembles twenty-four stacked TV monitors and three projection screens that blast out an eighteen-minute performance of moving images. Footage sourced from television and movies is edited to a rapid beat alongside a montage of TV commercials for consumer recording devices, played forward, in reverse and in slow motion, in which General Electric machines are presented to be at the heart of feigned familial intimacy. Abstract computer graphics – state-of-the art programming for the time – pulsate through the installation. Animated and morphing corporate logos, movie titles in all caps and Helvetica font, and the black void of intermittently inactive displays form the body of what Bender described as “electronic theatre.” For the electronic soundtrack of Total Recall Bender commissioned the New York-based musician Stuart Argabright. The computer graphics were programmed in collaboration with Amber Denker, who had also co-designed the revolutionary digital animations for “Music Non Stop” by Kraftwerk.
Bender was born in 1951 in Seaford, Delaware, USA. She moved to New York’s East Village in 1978 and befriended artists such as Robert Longo, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman. Bender started using television imagery in her work in 1982 and taught herself to edit video. She consequently started collecting and using the most advanced video and digital technology available to her. Although Bender was very early in her use of TV footage and digital animation, she is only recently being recognized for her pioneering role.
The Embassy is supporting the educational program that is accompanying the exhibit.