These early pieces, largely recorded in the artist’s bedroom, established Sadie Benning as the wunderkind of the New Queer Cinema. Begun when Benning was 15, the tapes skillfully combine direct-to-camera address and slow pans across handwritten texts that tremble with the force of a secret—like a note passed surreptitiously in class—while fragments of pop culture filter through the videos’ hazy atmospheres. Though they are frequently described as diaristic, prefiguring an age of YouTube confessionals, their subject is as much fantasy as autobiography; youthful daydreams are here brought vividly to life, interior dramas of a kid more at home in their head than out in the world. “I like the animated quality to it,” Benning later said of Pixelvision, “that way in which it’s kind of moving when it’s still. You can’t always tell what you are seeing when you’re looking at it; it’s abstract. lt’s not rendering the object as it really is. It’s giving you an idea of the object.” Likewise, the works in this program present us not simply with an image of outsider adolescence but also the idea of it, with all its heartache, its playfulness, its rage.

Living Inside
Sadie Benning, USA, 1989, 5m

If Every Girl Had a Diary
Sadie Benning, USA, 1990, 8m

Me and Rubyfruit
Sadie Benning, USA, 1990, 6m

Sadie Benning, USA 1990, 11m

A New Year
Sadie Benning, USA, 1989, 6m

A Place Called Lovely
Sadie Benning, USA, 1991, 14m

It Wasn’t Love
Sadie Benning, USA, 1992, 20m

Girl Power
Sadie Benning, USA, 1992, 15m

Programmer Thomas Beard on Pixelvision, the “Underappreciated Flipside of ’90s Indie Cinema”:

I bought a PXL 2000 on eBay years ago, back when I was in college, but unfortunately I could never get it to work. The Pixelvision camera was kind of legendary, a plastic camcorder for kids put out by Fisher-Price in the late ’80s that recorded its ghostly, low-res images onto a regular audio cassette. As a toy, the PXL 2000 was rather a bust, yanked from the shelves after only a year—they were too expensive, they were temperamental—but the story of Pixelvision doesn’t end there. It had a look like nothing else, a dreamy visual texture, fuzzy as a faded memory, and the format had a surprise second act in the hands of experimental filmmakers, who used the device to shoot some truly remarkable movies, like Michael Almereyda’s Nadja, a wry riff on the vampire picture, or Sadie Benning’s teenage bedroom tapes, which, in my estimation, are among the most moving and imaginative records of queer adolescence ever made.

Over the years there have been a number of one-off Pixelvision screenings, but nothing this comprehensive, and many of the titles aren’t currently available on DVD or Netflix, so if you’re intrigued by the curious afterlife of the PXL 2000 and the challenging, strangely beautiful films it captured, now’s the time to check them out. Think of this series as the underappreciated flipside of ’90s independent cinema.