21 Oct 2013
Tracking the Thrill 
Recently, whilst on holiday in New York City, I was fortunate to attend an exhibition walkthrough with Ike Yard's Stuart Argabright of 'Tracking the Thrill' at The Kitchen, one of NYC's oldest non-profit art spaces. This was a selected retrospective of the influential video work of Gretchen Bender (1951-2004), the centrepiece of which was 'Total Recall' (1987) a multi-screen installation set to a superb soundtrack of by Mr Argabright.

Apparently back in the day the whole thing would be cued up on banks of video players and the play buttons would be pressed in sync. Nowadays it's driven by computers but the TV screens are resolutely old school cathode ray.

There are a couple of Factory-related videos in the rest of the exhibition:

Gretchen Bender did the title sequence for the America's Most Wanted TV show (UK readers think 'Crimewatch' in terms of content, but without Nick Ross) and the soundtrack for that was by The Other Two. Bender's cut-up style quickly became the norm for many a show.

Robert Longo's video for New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle (FAC 173) is also included. Gretchen, who was Robert's girlfriend, did the again rapid-fire editing. More on the making of that video by producer Michael Shamberg over at a New Order Discography. According to Stuart Argabright, Gretchen herself is in the video.

The exhibition has now finished (as has the holiday) but this short clip below gives an idea of the overall experience.

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Biting Tongues

In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

- extract from the LTM Biting Tongues biography

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