San Francisco

Lindsay Benedict: dirty domestic at Martina }{ Johnston Gallery

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Susannah Magers reviews Lindsay Benedict’s dirty domestic at Martina }{ Johnston Gallery in Berkeley, California.

Lindsey Benedict. I'm Drinking My Hand (Roughing Up The Lips) 2010/2013.16 mm film transferred with live-Foley sound. 9 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

Lindsay Benedict. I’m Drinking My Hand (Roughing Up the Lips), 2010/2013; 16 mm film transferred with live Foley sound; 9 min. Courtesy of the Artist.

dirty domestic’s premise benefits from its location in the home gallery of Indira Martina Morre and Farley Johnston Gwazda, integrating (and imposing) Lindsay Benedict’s life with their own.

Benedict’s paintings are grouped by the emotional context in which they were produced:  autobiographical relationships between gesture, color, and the events they reflect. There’s an evolving conversation between these moments. In two month self-imposed residency with my mom (2013), a set of 15 acrylic paintings on paper, basic geometric shapes jostle with squiggles that possess unexpected lightness. The works on the adjacent walls reference the death throes of a relationship, layered and more visibly reactionary with the addition of spray paint. Together, these paintings impart a deliberate physicality, and they are Benedict’s first foray into the medium. In this sense, they read as efforts in pushing self-limitations: the lighter, more subdued groupings made in Florida (while attempting to connect with her mother, a painter, and with the breakup pending), and the more visceral, murkier works with text made after the aforementioned breakup in Brooklyn.

In her films, Benedict reaches further for self-clarity. It’s where the work engages 1970s feminist art, giving priority to performance with diary-like intensity. waking temps (2103) documents her daily routine with a Super 8 camera, complete with shaky visuals, grainy texture, and sync sound. It records 28 days, in 30-second intervals, of Benedict taking her body temperature to determine ovulation. Bathing, unscrewing jar lids, brushing her teeth—all made difficult while juggling the camera, a surrogate for the anticipated struggle of having a baby. Repetitive moments are spliced together, and her actions and sounds are a consistent, inevitable presence. After each interval, the familiar chime and vibration of a cell phone abruptly invades, leaving a black screen. The burden of this endeavor is palpably chaotic. What’s most enjoyable is unseen: the uncertainty of this process in the darkness, comforted by the whirring of the camera.

I’m Drinking My Hand (Roughing Up the Lips) (2010/2013), a self-investigation of sexuality, reads earnestly, almost instructionally. That’s perhaps the point, however tentative that process is. There’s a clever minimalism, reminiscent of Terry Fox’s The Children’s Tapes (1974)[1]; this is a black-and-white film with basic props. Benedict moves throughout the home—jumping from toilet to bathtub, tracing her upper body against a wall—spelling out the title of the film with black marker, on blank pieces of paper or the wall, and holding them up as testament to her self-exploration.

The parallels between the interior spaces in which Benedict created the work and the space they’re presented in are more discreet than provocative. I look forward to seeing the final integration, in which Morre and Gwazda will chart various daily events as instructed by Benedict.

dirty domestic is on view at Martina }{ Johnston Gallery through January 19, 2014.

Susannah Magers is a freelance arts writer and curator based in Oakland, CA.

[1] A collection of deceptively simple but suspenseful experiments executed using household objects, meant as countercultural entertainment.