Benefits Supervisor Sleeping

24 Jan 2018 – 18 Feb 2018

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UNIT9 Project Space

England, United Kingdom


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  • 8, 26, 35, 42, 47, 48, 67, 78, 135, 149, 242, 344, 388
  • Shoreditch High Street Overground
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UNIT9 is pleased to present ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, a new large-scale video sculpture by Charlotte Colbert (b. 1985, New York). The work is from Colbert’s series of anthropomorphic multi-screen sculptures, which explore contemporary approaches to portraiture through moving image.


"I was interested in capturing the surreal intimacy of being with someone. The tiny details of silent communication." — Charlotte Colbert

The subject of this portrait is Sue Tilley aka ‘Big Sue’, the Benefits Supervisor launched into the public realm through a seminal series of paintings by Lucian Freud after the two were introduced by Leigh Bowery in 1990.

Colbert’s work stages Sue Tilley within the original studio where Lucian Freud first painted her. On this Colbert comments, ‘The paint splattered on the floorboards would have been the very paint that painted Sue.’

Through the decades, Sue has remained iconoclastic as a counterpoint to the mainstream models that populate our screens. Speaking of the rusted steel that encases the subject of the portrait, Colbert likens the texture of the frame to that of ageing skin.

Examining Freud’s iconic series of paintings and exploring the mystery of its subject, Colbert uses 3D technology to zoom in on discrete observations of Sue Tilley. Colbertshoots her subjects close up in real time, so that each screen shows a moving image of a different part of Tilley’s body, so that the work becomes a kind of deconstructed living nude. Slowing down footage and stretching the encounter between artist and subject, Colbert’s work uses technology to extend the gaze. Through the process, object become subject:

"I like the idea of turning the tables and subverting the male gaze. Sue is now looking at us." — Charlotte Colbert

Shot entirely in black and white and without sound, the work plays with the notion that technology is – by default – continually rendering itself obsolete. This meditative work serves as a momento mori that aims to encourage close observation and self-reflection. Colbert’s multi-screen sculptures remind the viewer that while technology enables us to see more than ever before, it also fragments our gaze, distracting us from the bigger picture; it connects us to others yet disconnects us at the same time.

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Exhibiting artistsToggle

Charlotte Colbert


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