In the early ’80s, Bender met Amber Denker, a computer graphics researcher. Denker would sneak Bender into her lab at the New York Institute of Technology after hours to play around with primitive digital image making. Her video works from this period, Wild Dead I, II, and III (Danceteria Version) (all 1984), are hypnotic montages of computer-generated faces, snippets of commercials featuring Saul Bass’s AT&T logo, and segments from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Like a great science-fiction film, these images coagulate into a new vision for the future where advertisements take on fascist aesthetics and computers dictate our understanding of the human face.
At the heart of the retrospective is Total Recall (1987)—a 27-screen installation that is a complete onslaught to the senses. Dubbed “electronic theater” by Bender, the 18-minute video work edits together clips of CGI animation, corporate logos, and a Hollywood take on the El Salvador wars of the Reagan era. Composer Stuart Aragabright’s score, which sounds something like a mechanized cicada lodged deep into your ear, squeals from the speakers.