“I believe that an acceleration into, rather than a resistance to, our multi-layered visual environment will reveal structures or open windows to the development of a critical consciousness we can’t yet perceive as useful from within our immediate vantage point.”

–Gretchen Bender, 1991.

Friday, May 3, 2019

On May 3, composer Stuart Argabright will return to his score for Bender’s landmark work Total Recall (1987), accompanying the work of electronic theater with an added intro, outro, and expanded composition, intimately staged within the installation of Bender’s proscenium of screens. A one-night only event to experience Total Recall revisited, Argabright pulls from his archive of cassette tapes originally used in 1987 to construct the work’s expansive soundscape, which includes audio samples from car, soda, and early computer commercials, as well as the videos appropriated by Bender herself, such as Oliver Stone’s movie Salvador (1986) and commercials for the US Army Reserve.

In a talk at the Donnell Library Center in 1990, Bender remembers that while working on Total Recall she “noticed that all these corporations, like General Electric and the Army, were doing these incredible American heartland [commercials], all this manufactured nostalgia for this past that never was,” and realized that advertising and media had the ability to simulate and implant memories into our culture’s collective consciousness. In returning to these selected sights and sounds of the late-80s, Argabright resurfaces the texture of a media climate steeped in neoconservatism and consumerism with the advantages of hindsight.

About Total Recall: Gretchen Bender’s Total Recall (1987) is the artist’s largest realized work of electronic theater, an 11-channel performance choreographed across 24 television monitors and 3 projection screens. Operatic in scale, Bender’s work mined the familiar imagery of mainstream media and set it against an abrasive score by Stuart Argabright to create an experience that mimicked the immersive, yet assaulting image-world from which she felt viewers were increasingly unable to disentangle themselves.

Seating and Accessibility: A limited number of seats will be available for this performance, with priority for those with accessibility needs. Our first floor is accessible by elevator and stairwell. To get to our lower level to continue on in the exhibition, visitors who may have issues with stairs should notify our front receptionist upon arrival for arrangements. All bathrooms are ADA compliant.

Warning: This screening may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.


Total Recall, 1987. 11-channel video installation on 24 monitors and 3 projection screens, 18.2 minutes, with soundtrack by Stuart Argabright. Installation view of Gretchen Bender: So Much Deathless at Red Bull Arts New York, 2019. Photo by Lance Brewer. All artwork © The Gretchen Bender Estate.