“Play Pause,” Sadie Benning | (2006) – Whitney Biennial
Sadie Benning, perhaps the “mother” in conceptualizing the perceptive notion of the selfie, turned the camera onto herself in 70s– the first, lesbian teenager who ever documented her daily diary in video, and questioned her gender identity with a fisher price video camera. She can thus be said to be the founder of the today-viral concept of the “video log.”
She told the camera, “He was chasing me… He was fighting me on the front porch… I don’t want to go to school. There’s really no use for it anymore.” In another moment, she dances with a lover.
The sound pickup of the camera became her “private friend” in the bedroom when she returned from school: as if it became her all-caring therapeutic listener.
In the genre of video art– the phase when artists turned the “camera on oneself”– I find Sadie Benning to be truly inspirational. Unlike other women video artists, Sadie Benning turns the camera onto herself to explore the everyday: the routing, the ritual, the subliminal, and the sexual reflection of revealing oneself to the camera, almost as a cleansing. In a way, her gestures towards the camera are revolutionary in the genre of video art since at that time, turning the camera on oneself was not conceived as the modern “video log” that amateurs on Youtube these days invest themselves in. In turning the camera onto herself, for herself, her videos act like footage that was not meant to be found– a type of “video diary” that makes us both uncomfortable, sympathetic, and familiar to human revealing.