Juxtaposing feminist readings of medical tracts, narratives of patient treatment and archival footage, I Need Your Full Cooperation reveals the evolution of women’s relationship to modern medicine. The video dramatizes Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “rest cure”, adapting her 1892 story "The Yellow Wallpaper", and includes critical commentary by activist/writer Barbara Ehrenreich and historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg.
Shot in black and white, this rough-and-ready trilogy is about twin sisters who "act out" and act up in their own best interests. At the age when a young girl might discover her own sexuality, they explore themselves (and each other) in "games" and playtime together. In the three sections—"Icky and Kathy Find Liberty", "The Babysitter", and "Learning To Suck"—the girls engage in slightly illicit acts together. Being naughty can be fun!
Setting her pixelvision camera on herself and her room, Benning searches for a sense of identity and respect as a woman and a lesbian. Acting alternately as confessor and accuser, the camera captures Benning’s anger and frustration at feeling trapped by social prejudices.
"Four days spent in a studio working on a centerfold photo for Playboy magazine provided the subject matter for my film. The magazine itself deals with culture, cars, a certain lifestyle. Maybe all those trappings are only there to cover up the naked woman. Maybe it's like with a paper-doll. The naked woman in the middle is a sun around which a system revolves: of culture, of business, of living!
Benning illustrates a lustful encounter with a “bad girl,” through the gender posturing and genre interplay of Hollywood stereotypes: posing for the camera as the rebel, the platinum blonde, the gangster, the '50s crooner, and the heavy-lidded vamp. Cigarette poses, romantic slow dancing, and fast-action heavy metal street shots propel the viewer through the story of the love affair. Benning’s video goes farther than romantic fantasy, describing other facets of physical attraction including fear, violence, lust, guilt and total excitement.
Benning gives a chronology of her crushes and kisses, tracing the development of her nascent sexuality. Addressing the camera with an air of seduction and romance, giving the viewer a sense of her anxiety and special delight as she came to realize her lesbian identity.
These five short videos introduce Judy, a paper maché puppet who ruminates on her position in society. Like Judy, of the famous Punch and Judy puppet duo, Benning’s Judy seems to experience the world from the outside, letting things happen to her rather than making things happen around her.
Kiss The Boys And Make Them Die explores how memory, sexuality, and the self are created and enforced through the family story. The video chronicles how the social act of loving women becomes channeled into narratives of incest, desire for the mother, loss of the father, separation from the family, death and self-destruction. In this work, sexuality, difference and language are paralleled with haunting memories of a childhood ghost that both desires and hates women.
"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances" wrote Oscar Wilde. Lay Bare is a composite portrait of the human body, revealing it as it is only rarely seen in the most intimate relationships we have with our family or our lovers -- erotic and comic, beautiful and vulnerable.
Music, sound design and mixed by Andy Cowton
Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.
During a conference in the late 1970s, Carol Leigh (also known as the Scarlot Harlot) coined the term “sex worker.” Now, it is a fundamental part of the lexicon regarding all worker’s rights and this is owed in large part to Leigh’s artistic and activist career. Working primarily through the medium of performance and video – her work attempts to educate and broaden audiences’ understanding of sex work and the fundamental rights sex workers deserve. This interview is a distillation of those aims.
Lesser Apes tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah, and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.
A haunting look at the hidden issues of erotic power relationships between women, told through the reconstructed story of two girlhood friends. In Zando’s tape, the origins of desire and domination are traced to the early stages of the childhood relation between mother and daughter, as revealed in the often fearful and cruel framework of childhood play. In the paradigm of need and dependency versus power and control, the submissive impulse is linked to the transcendent yearning to reunite with the pre-natal mother.