Akeroyd Collection


Dara Birnbaum

b. 1946, New York, U.S.; Lives and works in New York, U.S.

Dara Birnbaum is an American video and installation artist whose contributions to the contemporary discourse on feminism, art, and television have had lasting impact. In her videos and multi-media installations, she has continually levelled a critique against the media age and its manipulation of culture and memory. She positions video, and the individual’s access to it, as a means of resistance to power and the embedded ideologies found in the era of mass image production. Birnbaum’s earlier works has frequently appropriated television footage to deconstruct and subvert the genre, by turning its own language against itself. Using sitcoms, game shows and other ubiquitous formats of television, she questions their meaning and re-codes the conventions and vocabularies of representation. This frequently centres on the stereotypical treatment of women, and she explores the potential for undermining television's visual economy of sexuality and consumerism. Later works have utilized appropriated imagery from YouTube and the Internet and even home movies at times juxtaposed with original footage shot by the artist. In her earliest work Birnbaum has frequently appeared in performance-for-camera works that position the body as a nexus around which psychological and emotional situations implicate the viewer and question the viewer/performer dynamic in new ways. The body becomes a site where entrenched power structures and social conventions are exposed, revealing the gendered hierarchies within society at large. These seminal early works signalled an important departure from the male-dominated works of the era that carried legacies of the male gaze and the objectification of women. Birnbaum has consistently attuned her attention to the intersection of art and technology and how they function in culture. Her works break down the gap between what appears and the power structures that enable their appearance. This has arrived as film both as single-channel videoand installation in galleries and museums, but also in public sites such as shopping malls, prominent nightclubs, and on television itself through channels such as MTV.

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Major retrospectives and surveys Dara Birnbaum's work have been presented at the Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York (2022); Miller Institute of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh (2022); Museu de Arte Contemporånea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2010) and S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium (2009), and the Kunsthalle wien, Vienna, Austria (1995). Her work was exhibited in Documenta 7, 8, and 9., along with numerous Venice Biennials. In 2023 Birnbaum had solo exhibitions both at the Osservatorio Prada Milano and the Aoyama Prada Tokyo. That same year her work was featured at the Museum of Modern Art, in the noted exhibition Signals: How Video Transformed the World.

Birnbaum has received numerous distinguished awards, including: American Academy of Art and Letters (2024); John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2021); The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Arts Residency (2011); the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011); and the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship (2010). She is the first woman in video to receive the prestigious Maya Deren Award by the American Film Institute, in 1987. In February 2017, Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art created The Birnbaum Award in the artist's honor.

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