Artists Space

How to be a wo(man)

Dara Birnbaum & Joan Jonas, moderated by Kathy Noble

October 2, 2015, 7pm

This discussion will consider the construction, performance and broadcast of gender archetypes over the last fifty years, and how these have been transformed, critiqued and subverted within visual art – specifically in the work of Dara Birnbaum and Joan Jonas. Both were part of a generation of women artists who began working in the 60s and 70s, and were pioneers in their radical address of subjectivity, imagery, artistic processes and technology. Within the wider social and political context, their work contained a powerful message of transformation that was extremely prescient: firstly, in relationship to writing by theorists such as Judith Butler and Donna Haraway in the early 90s; and, more recently, the digital and virtual revolution’s effect on identity construction and performance.

Artists Space regrets that Judith Bernstein is no longer able to participate in this event, due to unforeseen circumstances.

VHS-distorted image of Wonder Woman holding up her fist, from which emanates a burst of energy.
Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978/9. Videotape still. [VHS-distorted image of Wonder Woman holding up her fist, from which emanates a burst of energy.]

Dara Birnbaum's provocative video works are among the most influential and innovative contributions to the contemporary discourse on art and television. In her videotapes and multi-media installations, Birnbaum applies both low-end and high-end video technology to subvert, critique or deconstruct the power of mass media images and gestures to define mythologies of culture, history and memory. Through a dynamic televisual language of images, music and text, she exposes the media's embedded ideological meanings and posits video as a means of giving voice to the individual. Her work has most recently been shown within the inaugural exhibition, America is Hard to See, of the new building of the Whitney Museum of American Art and her pioneering multi-channel video installation, PM Magazine, was on view in Cut to Swipe at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In addition in the spring/summer 2015 her work was part of major group shows at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and mumok, Vienna. Previously, her work also has been exhibited at major institutions, such as: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; Tate Modern, London; Fundacão De Serralves, Porto; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Kunsthalle, Vienna; S.M.A.K., Ghent; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the UCCA, Beijing; amongst a vast number of others. She has been the recipient of numerous distinguished awards, among others the TV Picture Prize, International Festival of Video and Electronic Arts in Locarno, Switzerland; Certificate in Recognition of Service and Contribution to the Arts, Harvard University; and the American Film Institute's Maya Deren Award for Independent Film and Video Artists.

Joan Jonas is a pioneer of video and performance art, and an acclaimed multimedia artist whose work typically encompasses video, performance, installation, sound, text, and drawing. Light Time Tales, a major retrospective of her work, was presented at HangarBicocca in Milan, Italy from October 1, 2014 – February 1, 2015 and opens at Malmo Konsthall on 25 September 2015. She has had major retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart, Germany; and the Queens Museum of Art, New York. Jonas is currently representing the United States of America at the 56th Venice Biennale with a new commission presented by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts.

Kathy Noble is a curator and writer based in London, currently working with the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She was a Curator in residence at Wysing Arts Centre in 2013-14 and prior to this was Head of Exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary where she worked on exhibitions with Asco, Geoffrey Farmer, Mark Leckey and Tala Madani. From 2007-2012 she worked as a Curator at Tate Modern where she organized numerous commissions, exhibitions and events including The Tanks opening programme and Tate Modern Live, working with artists such as Ei Arakawa, Tania Bruguera, Michael Clark, Keren Cytter and Anne Teresa de Keersmaecker. She has published numerous essays in magazines, catalogues and books.

This public event is part of We (Not I), a four-day program of discursive meetings, presentations, and events that brings together a wide range of female artists, writers, curators and thinkers identifying with feminist practices to exchange and produce content addressing questions around the role of "we" in contemporary art practice, held at Artists Space between September 30 and October 3, 2015.

A red, white, and black text logo that reads, "We (not I)."
[A red, white, and black text logo that reads, "We (not I)."]

Artists Space would like to thank Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner for their gracious support of WE (Not I) in New York.