Marissa Lee Benedict (USA, 1985) and David Rueter (USA, 1978) began their collaborative partnership in 2015 in Chicago, IL, US. Since then, the artist team continues to work on the subjects of technology, the built environment, and the material culture of industry. From 2016-17 Benedict & Rueter received a National Endowment for the Arts "Art Works" grant for their collaborative project Gary Lights Open Works, developed under artist Jan Tichy's Heat Light Water Cultural Project in Gary, Indiana. They have collaboratively exhibited work at 68 Projects in Berlin (2019), Wrightwood 659 in Chicago (2019), the Venice Architecture Biennial (2018), and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (2016). Benedict was most recently a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL); and currently acts a Co-Artistic and Executive Director of Ditch Projects in Springfield, OR while lecturing at the University of Oregon. Rueter is currently an Assistant Professor in Art & Technology at the University of Oregon.
Viewers entering Benedict and Rueter's video installation, Dark Fiber, are greeted with scenes of them digging, burying, pulling, cutting, and otherwise installing a fiber-optic cable in the shadows of other, more visible, large-scale infrastructural works. Locations such as the US/Mexico border wall, Chicago-area petroleum refineries, and an Antwerp shipping canal segue into urban, then interior spaces, gradually reducing in scale and increasing in strangeness, until a tiny specialized machine cuts a single strand of fiber in a macro shot. The actual site of the video installation appears near the end of the loop, inviting viewers to see around the frame to find conduits at the edges of their vision, and to imagine filmic industrial worlds, frightening interior sites, and exhibition space as literally and uncannily connected. The video, which inaugurated the artists' collaborative practice in 2015, is updated for each new showing, and as of this writing has traveled to six exhibitions around the world.
Like Dark Fiber, the artists' subsequent work springs from historical, technical, and material research into industrial processes and infrastructure, including municipal and private water systems; petroleum extraction, refinement and circulation; so-called “smart” urban lighting infrastructure; the physical structures that facilitate the circulation of global capital; and abstract diagrammatic languages belonging to engineering, risk management, land surveying, and architecture. In contrast to approaches centered on exposure or transparency, the artists start with the questions: how might one contend with such tenacious and entrenched languages of power, while at the same time refusing to reproduce their claims to aesthetic and representational supremacy? How else might one live in the landscapes these languages build?