media saturation

Shared Eye #36, Sequence 11

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Sadie Benning, Shared Eye #36, Sequence 11, 2016, installed at the Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL

Immediately upon entering the large and open ballroom-like gallery space, nearly all of the pieces came into view at once. Most were arranged in small groupings, others large enough to occupy comparable amounts of space. These groups and stand-alone images, some dark, some emanating a spectrum of colors, demanded an immediate reference point from which to absorb the series as a complete idea. However, as we approached the work we realized that the complexity of each piece made this impossible. Any reference point could have become a fixed standpoint.

Because of their arrangement, finding a way into fragments of the exhibition was easy; with no pathway into the work set, we could move back and forth between larger and smaller pieces. At first glance, these looked like photomontages – digital images layered and ranging in style, type, color, resolution and age in order to produce a larger composite. Upon closer examination however, the materiality of the work emerged. Instead of bringing clarity to the series, the rigorous handmade construction left us bewildered. The pieces emerged not only as objects in space, but also evoking our individual visual vocabularies. Our understanding of each fragment in this exhibition emerged purely from our own visual histories, inviting us to experience seeing itself as an examination of what we could bring to the work.

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Sadie Benning, Shared Eye #36, Sequence 11 (detail), 2016

In Sequence #11: Shared Eye 36, two small rectangular tiles had been strategically inserted into the surface of a larger horizontal panel; uneven cuts and wrinkles revealed the handmade construction of this piece. The small sections carried their own peculiar images, acting like figures on a larger background or puzzle pieces fitted into a larger picture. Both photographic and rendered, the images were vague in content and quality. We could not overlook a single aspect of the work, as any image removed from the whole would seem out of place. The piece was multi-faceted in its ability to induce a sense of data oversaturation and confusion from any approach, whether material, pictorial, temporal, formal, or contextual. Its conveyance of its own reference points seemed to be from everywhere. The title suggested that the arrangement was generated – perhaps using a formula or a predetermined system. The result was a disquieting shuffle that evoked an online image search, referencing glitchy graphics, peeling street posters, or an indiscriminately edited composite. The piece alluded to information sharing with the added struggle of data sorting and the contemporary uncertainty of material reality. In some sense the piece denied representation as a form of communication while relying on its materiality as a more dependable language.

 

In the course of multiple viewings, Sequence #11: Shared Eye 36 cast the viewer out of a personal space of interpretation and into the public space of seeing as developing a familiarity, irrespective of standpoint. Through this work, we found narratives, commentaries, puzzles, ambiguities, lessons, and most importantly, an ever-shifting framework in defiance of those things. As a paradox it showed us that although our experiences generate knowledge, that knowledge can change and reveal dynamic unknowns.

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Sadie Benning, Shared Eye #36, Sequence 11, 2016, installed at the Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL

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