Benedict Drew is no stranger to complex installations. Drew has asserted his work as “explicit” in opposition to “oblique”. Drew’s current exhibition ‘Trapped In A Sticky Shed With Side Chain Compression’, at iMT Gallery is a combination of material mayhem that is crudely enigmatic. The message is hardly exact upon entrance. However, Drew’s constructed chaos is compelling once the viewer mentally submits to the stroboscopic anxiety that the exhibition elicits. Through a concentrated process, the viewer becomes embedded within the hypnotising fantasy of “digital materialism”, a phrase Drew describes as the process when computer components become animate and interact with the viewer. The effect of Drew’s exhibition awakens our subjective experience to the social commentary of politics and technology through contemporary aesthetics.
The exhibition space is small and intimate, arousing the feeling of being trapped in a shed. On the walls are sizeable works that create a vibe of manic urgency. Drew’s wall-based works recall protest posters with progressive messages. Drew combines imagery and text, clear one-liners such as “Commune” and “Bad Ffffeeeeeellll”. He depicts political turmoil through blunt and humorous aesthetics. ‘Colonial Fantasy Slop’ (2019) portrays a head that dangles from an umbilical cord attached to the words of the title. The bald and withered head regurgitates the words “The Great British”. ‘Shareholders’ (2019) is a depiction of two amorphous leaders facing each other, indicative of two members from differing political parties. The composition of their faces is undeniably phallic. ‘Head Murk English Architecture’ (2019) references the puppetry of politics and commerce by depicting a naked man, crawling on all fours. Wires extend from holes in his back and attach to a dark cloud that reads “English Architecture”. Drew’s wall works are profoundly unapologetic. They show how society vomits capitalism and is constructed within a commercialised framework.
Drew’s combination of imagery and text imply that we are simply parts or facets trapped within a corrupt political system. We become pawns by the world’s dependence on technology and are continuously tuned-in to our devices. ‘Trapped in a Sticky Shed with Side Chain Compression’ is Drew’s depiction of technological entropy. The centre of the exhibition is an explicit example of sticky shed syndrome, a condition created by the deterioration of a magnetic tape. The decay renders the tape unusable. Drew’s construction metaphorically references a pile of useless information left to remain, buried and forgotten in a shed. Scattered fairground flags on the floor allude to a past event. Three televisions on the floor play a feedback loop of purposeless sound and authoritative figures faces, distorted to amorphous and phallic sludges - a reference to the aforementioned digital materialism.
With this exhibition, Drew probes discussion of how digital material, technology and art simultaneously elicit arousal and anxiety. Socio-politics and our dependence on technology can do the same, yet we accept our addiction and infatuation. If we indirectly succumb to the affectual nature of the work, the aesthetic poignancy becomes explicit.