Videomaker Sadie Benning began making films at age sixteen with her Fisher-Price Pixelvision toy camera, a gift from her avant-garde filmmaker father. In her early videos from the 1990s, she retreated to the comfort of her bedroom to film intensely personal single channel videos exploring the themes of emerging sexuality and lesbianism. Experimental filmmakers like Benning loved the black and white grainy images and box frame of the Pixelvision, despite it’s failure on the general market. These videos were referred to as “Pixelvision” videos, and the artist was seen as a pioneer of “Pixelvision”. In 1993, her videos appeared at the Whitney Biennial. In 2007, the Wexner Center organized “Sadie Benning: Suspended Animation,” which was her first museum retrospective.
Now showing at Toronto’s Power Plant is Benning’s 2006 video, Play Pause, directed in collaboration with Solveig Nelson. This two screen video installation is made from hundreds of Benning’s drawings which follow anonymous urban figures through public and private city spaces. Throughout the course of a day, the characters move through a city resembling Chicago, engaging in quotidian city activity which then leads to drinking and dancing at night. The video ends at the airport at dawn with a security guard scanning bags and two people having sex on the wing of the plane as it takes off. Play Pause is similar to Benning’s earlier work in that it follows characters as they go about the process of defining themselves and their sexuality.
In addition to her film and video practice, Benning is a former member and co-founder of the band Le Tigre.