Benedict Drew Studied MFA Fine Art at Slade from 2009-11
Benedict currently lives in Whitstable and works in Margate
A conversation between Glen Jamieson and Benedict Drew
Glen Jamieson: For your installation THIS IS FEEDBACK at OUTPOST, the distinctions between the aural and visual become ambiguous - a monitor describes classical compositions that are watched by an amplifier sounding the image; dumb objects quiver and convulse with internal movement as they watch (some with eyes) the phenomenon of their own looping feedback on screen or through amplifier. Noise merges as an entirety - a strangely melodic progression. Can you comment on the presence of feedback within this complex installation?
Benedict Drew: The title is sort of a bit tongue in cheek, like Now That's What I Call Music. But considering feedback is a reoccurring theme, the idea that feedback describes an object plus the environment that the object is in. Its about a set of relations between things - between room, microphone and amplifier, and these objects can be animated by this system. So thinking about this in relation to, say, posting an image on a social network or blog and someone liking it, or commenting on it, creates a feedback, and this feedback, this interaction, has value. I find that very peculiar, and this is what I am referencing with this work
GJ: Upside-down Primark bags are transformed with eyeholes into mythical creatures as their own internal light is reflected back by the apparatus it faces. Even an apparently dormant tub of meal-replacement-shake is brought to life by its opposing monitor image perpetually exercising a thumbs-upjthumbs-down gesture. All this played out on IKEA tabletop islands. On first encounter these objects animated are comical, but there seems something more serious underpinning them. How do you see the relationship between these objects that you have coupled?
BD: The objects are looking at screens, and are transformed by this looking and by the anthropomorphising of them. The body building milkshake is material of transformation; it is a purely functional substance that is synthesised to cause a change to the body. It observes a body part that gestures approval or disapproval: like I don't like - its this really dominant form of interaction on popular TV and the most visited websites, this banal binary. The Primark bags engage in a sort of psychotic staring through the repetition of strobes that are both persistent and slightly unstable in that they don't keep a constant bpm, they lose time. Primark is this symbol of a kind of excess and these bags are so ubiquitous, it functions as a fulfillment of desire - you go into that shop and there are small mountains of clothes, its a very odd landscape. The same can be said for IKEA but that's even more of a parallel universe, where objects are sort of the same but slightly different so when you walk around IKEA land you see kitchens, bedrooms, and workspaces where a bed is not for sleeping in, but for looking at. Staring at stuff, wanting it, imagining themselves in it, aspiring to live like that - if only they didn't excrete mess. And this desire is most often proliferated through the screen.
GJ: I am interested in these entoptic patterns on the right hand gallery wall. The entoptic is the visual phenomena of objects within the eye itself that become visible in a certain light, and these ink drawings appear to do something different from the works on the floor. An amorphous black canvas with two tiny eye-like dots faces the ink drawlnqs, and on another wall a revolving animation pokes itself in the eye. Where there are many objects looking at things across the installation, how do you feel these paintings and drawlnqs fit into this system?
BD: The entoptic patterns are transcribed from a small gif I found that is a chart comparing these patterns to Paleolithic cave paintings, but I was interested in these internal optics as something like screen burns; shapes that appear in the eye that are like a symptom of the mechanics of looking. As a whole I wanted a sort of ecstatic collision of things looking at each other trying to communicate or speak a common language. It turns out that the language is of 90bpm. Its trying to occupy this strange area I find myself in which is dominated by looking at and commenting, and liking, and wanting. That is sort of unsatisfactory and oppressive and mostly mundane, but somehow it is commodity.