Rirkrit Tiravanija Recalls Gretchen Bender’s Iconic ‘Total Recall’

Cultured Magazine


Gretchen Bender: So Much Deathless, now on view at Red Bull Arts New York through July 28, is the first posthumous retrospective of the multidisciplinary artist’s work—multifaceted, prismatic, premonitory. Bender was deeply interested in mass media and its collective acceleration. Her work interrogated, explored, and then transformed it—as with her 1987 work, Total Recall—into some kind of sublime barrage.

In an exclusive audio clip for Cultured, the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, Bender’s studio manager from 1986-1989 at her South Street Seaport studio, describes his memory of Bender’s approach to Total Recall, which has been restored for the exhibition. The piece—a 24-monitor, 3-projection, 11-channel piece that turns televisions into inescapable, glowing monuments—is a good visual presage of our own screen-saturated lives; where other artists critiqued these mediums, Bender leaned into them, accelerated them herself. Tiravanija remembers it was the human experience that perhaps fascinated her most—he describes Total Recall as her attempt to “create a virtual environment” that could, actually, “spiritually raise you.” Press play to hear more.