Benedict Drew: The Trickle-Down Syndrome at The Whitechapel Gallery, London


A visit to Benedict Drew’s ‘The Trickle-Down Syndrome’ exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery is a strikingly surreal experience. The exhibition is extremely interactive and invites not only your visual but also your aural senses to explore the artist’s work. 

Drew’s work pushes boundaries through the exploitation of psychedelic imagery and sounds that portray his view of modern society and how he believes that eventually the benefits and excesses of the wealthy will eventually “trickle-down” into the layers of the rest of society. His work also depicts the feeling of anguish and people sinking into a depression, from social and environmental submersion of being confused and overwhelmed by images and objects, and trying to discover a way to escape, with escape being a form of euphoric protest. 

There is something happening no matter which direction you turn throughout this exhibition. You are greeted by a twisted, psychedelic screen as soon as you step through the door, walking on black and white spirals, with a TV screen showing you hallucinatory shapes and movements in tandem with music and sounds from a speaker that booms through your whole head and body while your eyes focus on your new surroundings. 

There are large prints hanging from the walls, full of confusing and erratic patterns, which are both confusing and intriguing, calling for close examination and analysis and a search for meaning under the spell of the music sending one into a hypnotic trance-like state.

On a stage in the middle of the exhibition, a TV screen, surrounded by twisting sculptures, shows the actress Gretchen Egolf, describing social, political and environmental issues in a mesmerising manner. The screens also show someone trudging through thick mud and sludge, struggling to keep moving and avoid the sludge, which reflects with what the actress is saying about the struggle to keep yourself above water in today’s society, unless you’re wealthy. The sculptures and paintings of eyes on the stage face you wherever you stand, physically and literally transmitting the idea that we are constantly being watched. 

Drew shows his distaste for certain directions of politics through his vinyl record, ‘Crawling Through Tory Slime”, which relates back to the video of someone crawling and struggling to make their way through the sludge. The exhibition has included a record player and headphones for you to listen to the record playing. The sounds are immensely surreal and hypnotic, with whispering in the background, making it a strange composition, albeit one that you cannot stop listening to. 

All the colours in the exhibition constantly swap and change on TV screens and there are projections on the walls of messages flashing up. Everything is very trance-inducing and almost hypnogogic. The exhibition also offers an installation that consists of stacks of newspapers, filled with designs and views of Benedict Drew himself, blown about in the manner you would see on a street, that are free for you to take and indulge in.

What is brilliant about this exhibition is that it isn’t just about displaying pieces of art but it is a thought-provoking narrative about a very real and current subject affecting a huge segment of society, that has been brought to life. This exhibition projects plenty of opinions and a serious political view in a fun and exciting way, that can capture audiences who otherwise might not be interested in the social and environmental issues that are happening around us.

The Trickle Down Syndrome is on at The Whitechapel Gallery until 10th September. 2017.  More information may be found here