The Decade that Changed the Art World
May 13th, 2018
Via Hyperallergic: "If there’s one work emblematic of the entire show, it is surely Gretchen Bender’s (1951–2004) extraordinary 1984 installation Dumping Core, an 'electronic theater' of rapidly cut and cascading film footage, corporate logos, computer animations, and crashing noise presented across 14 television screens. The work debuted at The Kitchen in 1984, where the artist described it as a response to the 'corporatization of culture.' Bender operated beyond the sphere of fine art, editing music videos for New Order, R.E.M. and Megadeth. She also produced the frenzied and nightmarish title sequence for Fox television’s America’s Most Wanted. 'Today legal questions concerning movies are generally related to pornography' a female voice declares during Dumping Core, '… but the violent cry over movie content continues.' The voices sampled in Dumping Core are frequently interrupted by audio glitches and violent sounds including crashing glass, broken synth music, and gun shots. The work is as engrossing as it is unnerving.
The primary takeaway of Brand New is how high the stakes of representation became during a decade of proliferating imagery and technology. Much of the work on display sought to disrupt the mass media’s ability to perpetuate and normalize discrimination. Julia Wachtel’s 1983 painting, Love Thing isolates cartoon characters from two separate greeting cards: a young Native American woman with an arrow shot into her buttocks, and a well-coiffed white woman brandishing a pair of scissors. Each are bent over suggestively, with their buttocks prominently raised. The decontextualization of each character emphasizes their respective stereotypes while also amplifying the underlying violence of each image. [...]
It is extraordinary how current Brand New feels, whether it’s the ongoing relevance of Holzer’s The Inflammatory Texts or the remarkable prescience of Bender’s Dumping Core. The ’80s were a political decade and Brand New is a political show. The art world as we recognize it today was largely manufactured by the decade’s commercial prowess, and we’re still grappling with its fallout. Jetzer’s exhibition is by no means perfect. It stumbles with its coverage of collectives and often foregrounds blue-chip work whose thematic relevance is obvious. It remains however, an engrossing exploration of art and commerce that deserves far more critical attention. The exhibition indelibly contributes to ’80s scholarship by foregrounding the talents of the decade’s less-appreciated artists."