Dara Birnbaum

Dara Birnbaum has been working with video since the late 1970s.In her early examples, she drew on commercial television, with sources ranging from soap operas to advertisements, to investigate the often concealed ideological implications of this principal vehicle for disseminating popular culture. By fragmenting the television sequences and repeating particular frames, she has subjected images of Wonder Woman, quiz show contestants, and new reports from Beijing’s Tienenman Square uprising to an analysis of the expressive impact of the medium. Since the early 1980s, Birnbaum’s work has taken the form of multimedia and environmental installations. In Will-O’-The-Wisp, 1985, three monitors are arranged at the center of a large panel that presents the photographed image of a woman’s face against a backdrop of leafy branches. This same image recurs in the video displayed on the monitors, in which a voice quietly tells of a lost love and alternates with landscapes and scenes of children playing in a city street. The female subject is the equivalent of the character of Marguerite, the archetypal heroine in the legend of Faust. By turning to contemporary images, Birnbaum’s intention is to make the literary myth current and to focus on the submissive female stereotype, tying it to the historical and cultural circumstances that have produced her.