Akeroyd Collection


Dara Birnbaum, Six Movements: Video Works from 1975, (Chaired Anxieties: Abandoned; Chaired Anxieties: Slewed; Chaired Anxieties Addendum: Autism; Mirroring; Control Piece; Bar(red)), 1975

Six Movements: Video Works from 1975, which comprises 6 separate videos of varying durations, explores a woman's psychological states through physical gestures. Each are silent performance-based video works where Birnbaum appears appearing on camera, alone, undertaking various actions. Named Chaired Anxieties: Abandoned; Chaired Anxieties: Slewed; Chaired Anxieties Addendum: Autism; Mirroring; Control Piece; Bar(red) (all 1975) they are filmed in black and white, with the camera acting as a static device to capture the movements as they happen from a fixed vantage point. There is a directness in the address and a raw quality to the video. The works speak to the early and ongoing interest in the discourses of feminist theory that Birnbaum contributed to as well as her own lived experience. Notably, all the pieces that make up this work introduce themes that later recur throughout Birnbaum’s practice. Celebrated as an artist who innovatively appropriated television footage as source material, in these works, Birnbaum uses her own body as a nexus around which intense emotional manifestations can occur, implicating the viewer/performer dynamic in new ways that foreground feminine perspective. These works follow in the footsteps of artists such as Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, and Dan Graham, and yet signal an important departure, too. Birnbaum has said ‘I had observed that with Acconci’s work the woman was basically used, entrapped, seduced. As enticed and seduced by these works as I was, I also felt the necessity to break from that male position. Acconci’s seductions were directed out toward an anonymous viewer, who in fact could almost always be assumed as female. That’s probably why, as a woman, I went for a position of self-inquiry’. In Mirroring, for example, Birnbaum is seen, seeing herself in the mirror. The viewer also sees both her mirror-self and real self through a repeat set of actions. In Bar(red) the artist walks across a hallway beyond a door frame, crossing the line of sight of the camera each time. The screen goes black and the action repeats. We never see her face until the last pass, where she stands defiant, staring at the screen with confidence. In this act, however, we also sense Birnbaum is acutely aware of her own exposure and the kind of gaze this engenders. This is the critical impulse of the works as a whole; the subtle but affecting articulation of a feminist subtext through the central figure of a woman who is presented as both strong and vulnerable.

MediumSet of 6 videos: each 1-channel video, black and white, mono mix, silent
DurationVarying durations
EditionEdition of 10 + 2APs