Sadie Benning

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Sadie Benning
Benning in 2011
Benning in 2011
Background information
Born (1973-04-11) April 11, 1973 (age 49)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Occupation(s)video maker, artist, musician, professor

Sadie T. Benning (born April 11, 1973) is an American artist, who has worked primarily in video, painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and sound.[1] Benning creates experimental films and explores a variety of themes including surveillance, gender, ambiguity, transgression, play, intimacy, and identity. They became a known artist as a teenager, with their short films made with a PixelVision camera that have been described as "video diaries".

Benning was a co-founder and a former member of the American electronic rock band Le Tigre, from 1998 until 2001.

Early life[edit]

Sadie Benning was born April 11, 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin.[2][3] Benning was raised by their mother in inner-city Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[4] Their parents divorced before they were born, their father is film director James Benning.[5] Benning left high school at age 16, due to homophobia.[6][7]

They have identified as non-binary.[7]


Early work[edit]

Benning began creating visual works at age 15, they started filming with the "toy" video camera they received as a Christmas gift from their father, the experimental filmmaker James Benning.[8][9] Benning used a Fisher-Price PXL-2000 camera, also known as PixelVision, which created pixelated black and white video on standard audio cassette tapes.[7] At first, Benning was standoffish to the PixelVision camera and is quoted as saying, "I thought, 'This is a piece of shit. It's black-and-white. It's for kids. He'd told me I was getting this surprise. I was expecting a camcorder."[6]

They made four short films and brought them to their father's film class he was teaching at Cal Arts, and they screened the films for the first time in front of a class.[6][5] One of the students put one of the films in a film festival he was organizing.[6] By the age of 19, they had shown their films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Sundance Institute, and at international film festivals.[6]


The majority of Benning's shorts combined performance, experimental narrative, handwriting, and cut-up music to explore, among other subjects, gender and sexuality.[9][dead link] Benning's work has been included in the Whitney Biennial on four occasions (1993, 2000, 2006), and they were the youngest artist included in the well-known and controversial 1993 Whitney Biennial.[10][11][12]

Benning's earlier videos – A New Year, Living Inside, Me and Rubyfruit, Jollies, and If Every Girl Had a Diary - used Benning's isolated surroundings and the effect this had on Benning as a focus for their theme. In Benning's earliest work, A New Year, Benning shied away from being in front of the camera, instead focusing on their surroundings – primarily the confines of their room and bedroom window – to portray their feelings of angst, confusion and alienation. "I don't talk, I'm not physically in it, it's all handwritten text, music; I wanted to substitute objects, things that were around me, to illustrate the events. I used objects in the closest proximity – the television, toys, my dog, whatever."[13]

The themes of sexual identity and the challenges of growing up are repeated throughout the body of Benning's work, who self-identified as a lesbian in 2014.[14] Benning's video Me and Rubyfruit is referred to as their "first video to be presented as a coming-out narrative".[15] Benning uses pop culture, such as music, television or newspapers, to amplify their message while simultaneously parodying the same pop culture.[16] Benning also draws inspiration from images on television or in movies, observing: "They're totally fake and constructed to entertain and oppress at the same time – they're meaningless to women, and not just to gay women. I got started partly because I needed different images and I never wanted to wait for someone to do it for me".[10] The use of a variety of media in their work gives insight to the viewer on how Benning has been mostly interacting with the world.[14]

As their work has progressed, Benning has increasingly used images of their own body and voice.[14] In works such as If Every Girl Had a Diary, Benning uses the limitations of the PixelVision to get extreme closeups of their own face, eyes, fingers, and other extremities so that the focus is on sections of their face as they narrate their life and thoughts.[14] In 1998, the English Professor Mia Carter observed: "Benning's daring autoerotic and autobiographic videos, [their] ability to make the camera seem a part of [their] self, and extension of [their] body, invite the audience to know [them]."[17]

Later work[edit]

Benning entered Bard College in 2013 and graduated two years later with a MFA degree, where they now work as faculty.[18][19][20]

Their work is in various public museum collections including, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA),[21] Whitney Museum of American Art,[11] Smithsonian American Art Museum,[22] Albright-Knox Art Gallery,[23] among others.


In 1998, Benning co-founded Le Tigre, the feminist post-punk band whose members include ex-Bikini Kill singer/guitarist Kathleen Hanna and zinester Johanna Fateman. Benning left the band in 2001 and JD Samson joined Le Tigre after Benning's departure.[24][25]


Year Exhibition name Location Notes
1990 Artists' Television Access, San Francisco, California [26]
1991 Film in the Cities St. Paul, Minnesota [26]
1991 Fact/Fiction Museum of Modern Art, New York [27]
1991 Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, Illinois [26]
1992 Art and Kultureproject, Vienna, Austria [26]
1992 Videos on the Self Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland [26]
1992 Cinema in the 90s Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York [26]
1993 Whitney Biennial Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, New York [12][11]
1993 British Film Institute, London, England [26]
1993 Vera Vita Giola Gallery, Naples, Italy [26]
1993 Galerie Crassi, Paris, France [26]
1994 In and Around the Body Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania
1994 Women's Self Portraits University of California, Santa Cruz, and University of California, Berkeley
1994 Queer Screen Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia [26]
1995 World Wide Video Festival Hague [26]
1996 Scream and Scream Again: Film in Art Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Oxford, England [26]
1998 Up Close and Personal Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [26]
2007 Sadie Benning: Suspended Animation Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
2007 Sadie Benning: Play Pause Dia Center, New York City, New York [28][better source needed]
2008 7th Gwangju Biennale Gwangju, South Jeolla province, South Korea
2012 VHS the Exhibition Franklin Street Works, Stamford, Connecticut
2012 Raw/Cooked: Ulrike Müller Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York [29]
2013–2014 2013 Carnegie International Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2016 Off-Site Exhibition: A Shape That Stands Up Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California
2017 Shared Eye Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland [30][7]


Film works by Benning
Dates Name Medium Duration Notes
1989 A New Year black & white video, Pixelvision 5:57 This piece is included in the art collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art.[22][31]
1989 Me & Rubyfruit black & white video, Pixelvision 5:31 This piece is included in the art collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art.[32][21][33]
1989 Living Inside black & white video, Pixelvision 5:06 This piece is included in the art collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art.[34][21]
1990 If Every Girl Had a Diary black & white video, Pixelvison 8:56 This piece is included in the art collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.[35]
1990 Welcome to Normal color video, Hi 8 20:00
1990 Jollies black & white video, Pixelvision 11:18 This piece is included in the art collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art.[36][21]
1991 A Place Called Lovely black & white video, Pixelvision 13:40
1992 It Wasn’t Love (But It Was Something) black & white video, Pixelvision 19:06 [5]
1992 Girl Power black & white video, Pixelvision 15:00
1995 The Judy Spots color video, 16 mm film 12:30 The film is produced by Elisabeth Subrin.[37] This piece is in the art collection at the Museum of Modern Art.[21]
1995 German Song black & white video, Super 8 film 6:00 Made in collaboration with Come. This piece is in the art collection at the Museum of Modern Art.[21]
1998 Flat Is Beautiful black & white video, Pixelvision, 16mm film, and Super 8 film 56:00 Video is co-starring Mark Ewert. This piece is in the art collection at the Museum of Modern Art.[21]
1998 Aerobicide video, color 4:00 Video recorded for the track of the same name, on the Julie Ruin album.[38]
2006 Play Pause two channel video installation from hard drive, color digital video/ drawings on paper 29:21 Directed by Sadie Benning in collaboration with Solveig Nelson, drawings and sound by Sadie Benning.[39] Influenced by the book, Ulysses by James Joyce.[40] This piece is included in the art collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[11]
Installation and fine art work by Benning
Year Name Medium Notes
1999 Le Tigre Slide Show slide installation projected during Le Tigre music performances, 40:00, drawings & color slides
2003 The Baby installation, 5:40, color digital video/ drawings on paper
2003 One Liner installation, 5:07, b&w video/ Pixelvision
2013 Locating Center installation of abstract paintings This work was commissioned by the Carnegie Museum of Art, for the 2013 Carnegie International.[41][better source needed]
Music work by Benning
Year Name Type Notes
1999 Le Tigre compact disc and vinyl Music album recorded with Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman.

Awards, recognition, and honors[edit]

In 1991, the first article about Benning's work, written by Ellen Spiro, appeared in the national gay magazine The Advocate.[42] In 2004, Bill Horrigan curated a retrospective of Benning's works on video. In 2009, Chloe Hope Johnson contributed a chapter in the book There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series) entitled Becoming-Grrrl The Voice and Videos of Sadie Benning.[43]

Benning has received grants and fellowships from Guggenheim Fellowship (2005) by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation,[44] Rockefeller Foundation grant (1992),[5] Andrea Frank Foundation, and National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). Awards include the Wexner Center Residency Award in Media Arts (2003–2004, which was extended to 2006),[44] National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture Merit Award, Grande video Kunst Award, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle Award.

Their videos are distributed by Video Data Bank.[citation needed]


  • Benning, Sadie; Lange, Jennifer (2007). Sadie Benning: Suspended Animation (exhibition book). Columbus, Ohio: Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University. ISBN 9781881390411.


  1. ^ Burton, Johanna (2017). Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon. New York: New Museum. p. 336. ISBN 978-0915557165.
  2. ^ Mileaf, Janine A. (2004). Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary Art. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University. ISBN 978-0-936316-18-5.
  3. ^ Reports of the President and of the Treasurer. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2006.
  4. ^ Auer, James. "Film artist selected." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel January 5, 2000
  5. ^ a b c d Yablonsky, Linda (July 1, 1993). "Sadie Benning by Linda Yablonsky". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved April 28, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e Masters, Kim (October 17, 1992). "Auteur of Adolescence". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Gregoris, Naomi (February 8, 2017). "Sadie Benning ist nicht zu fassen" [Sadie Benning is Beyond Belief, Sadie Benning exhibits in the Kunsthalle and is indescribable. We tried anyway.]. TagesWoche (in Swiss High German). Retrieved August 14, 2020. Sadie Benning möchte weder als Frau noch als Mann bezeichnet werden. Das ist wichtig. Für die, die sich fragen, wieso in diesem Text immer nur dieser Name auftaucht, ohne geschlechtliche Zuweisung. Für die, die sich selten fragen, wieso man Menschen immer über ihr Geschlecht definiert. Wieso es nur zwei Geschlechter gibt oder überhaupt Geschlechter.
  8. ^ Everyday innovators : researching the role of users in shaping ICT's. Haddon, Leslie. Dordrecht: Springer. 2005. pp. 126. ISBN 9781402038723. OCLC 209847105.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ a b Curnotte, Rick (January 2003). Curnotte, Richard A. Jr. (ed.). "Child's Play: The Pixelvision Videos of Sadie Benning". The Film Journal (4). ISSN 1542-0868. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Smith, Roberta (March 28, 1993). "UP AND COMING: Sadie Benning; A Video Artist Who Talks Through a Keyhole". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d "SADIE BENNING: PLAY PAUSE". Whitney Museum of American Art. 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Barnes, Harper (October 28, 1994). "Dream-like Video Has Hypnotic Power". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 110. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  13. ^ Smith, Gavin. (1998). "Toy Stories" Film Comment Nov/Dec98, Vol. 34 Issue 6, p28, 5p
  14. ^ a b c d Russell, Catherine (2010). "Autoethnography". Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video. Durham NC: Duke University Press. pp. 291–295. ISBN 978-0822323198. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  15. ^ Jutz, Gabriele (February 2017). "'Man There Ain't No Film in That Shit': Materiality, Temporality, and Politics of Pixelvision Video". FKW//Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur. 61: 54–71.
  16. ^ Morris, Gary (April 1999). Morris, Gary (ed.). "Behind the Mask: Sadie Benning's Pixel Pleasures". Bright Lights Film Journal (24). ISSN 0147-4049. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  17. ^ Carter, Mia (Spring 1998). "The Politics of Pleasure: Cross-Cultural Autobiographic Performance in the Video Works of Sadie Benning". Signs (Feminisms and youth Cultures ed.). The University of Chicago Press. 23 (3): 745–69. doi:10.1086/495287. ISSN 0097-9740. JSTOR 3175309. S2CID 144941945.
  18. ^ "Sadie Benning". LANDMARKS. University of Texas at Austin. August 16, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  19. ^ Stillman, Steel (December 10, 2012). "Figuring It Out: Bard's Low-Residency M.F.A. Program". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  20. ^ Carrigan, Margaret (August 29, 2017). "The 15 Top Art Schools in the United States". Artsy. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g "Artist: Sadie Benning". The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Art: A New Year". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "Blow up 1". Albright-Knox. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  24. ^ "Who Is LeTigre". Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  25. ^ Rodgers, Tara, ed. (2010). "Alone/Together" [Le Tigre]. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. Duke University Press. pp. 245–54. ISBN 978-0822346616. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Contemporary women artists. Hillstrom, Laurie Collier, 1965-, Hillstrom, Kevin, 1963-. Detroit: St. James Press. 1999. ISBN 1558623728. OCLC 40869639.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  27. ^ "Fact/Fiction". The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  28. ^ "Sadie Benning: Play Pause, 2006". Dia Art Foundation. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  29. ^ Schwendener, Martha (September 6, 2012). "Collaborative and Solo, With a Certain Feminist Bent". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  30. ^ "Winter Preview: Museum Shows and Biennials Around the World". November 22, 2016. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  31. ^ "Sadie Benning. A New Year. 1989". The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  32. ^ "Art: Me and Rubyfruit". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  33. ^ New York Ultimate Country. New York Magazine Company. 1991. p. 27. Sadie Benning's Me and Ruby fruit and Staying Inside
  34. ^ "Art: Living Inside". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  35. ^ "Art: If Every Girl Had a Diary". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  36. ^ "Art: Jollies". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  37. ^ Frieling, Rudolf (1997). Internationaler Videokunstpreis 1997 (in German). Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden. p. 24. ISBN 3-928201-17-4.
  38. ^ "Aerobicide - Julie Ruin | Video Data Bank". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  39. ^ Smith, Roberta (April 30, 2009). "Animating the Everyday Sublime". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  40. ^ Smee, S. (October 9, 2011). "Art in Motion at ICA". The Boston Globe. p. N6. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  41. ^ "Sadie Benning | 2013 Carnegie International".
  42. ^ Spiro, Ellen. (1991). "Shooting Star: Teenage Video Maker Sadie Benning Attracts a Youthful Audience." Advocate March 26, 1991.
  43. ^ Columpar, Corinn and Mayer, Sophie (2009). There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. pp. 172–182. ISBN 9780814333907.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  44. ^ a b Buchan, Suzanne; Hertz, Betti-Sue; Manovich, Lev (2007). Animated Painting. San Diego, California: San Diego Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-937108-40-6.

External links[edit]