Collection 1970s–Present

204

Gretchen Bender’s Dumping Core

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Gretchen Bender. Dumping Core. 1984. Four-channel video (color, sound; 13 min.) and 13 monitors, dimensions variable. The Modern Women’s Fund. © 2019 Gretchen Bender. Courtesy the Estate of Gretchen Bender
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 204

In Dumping Core, a frenzy of images appears across 13 video monitors, creating an information overload set to a proto-techno soundtrack. The installation mimics and exaggerates the pervasive media culture prompted by then-new television networks like CNN and MTV. As Bender said, “I quickly got caught up in the way in which TV moves, the current. . . . From that equivalent flow I tried to force some kind of consciousness of underlying patterns of social control.” By rapidly intercutting computer-generated logos, graphics, and other clips from TV and movies, the artist sought to subvert corporate agendas and expose the rampant use of new image-making technologies for commercial gain.

The work’s title refers to a computer error called a “core dump” and also alludes to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, capturing fears of technological dystopia and nuclear annihilation. Conceived and staged as a work of “electronic theater”—and originally performed during a single evening—Dumping Core demanded a close look at the power of televisual media at a nascent moment of the rapidly accelerating digital age.

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