Monday, February 13, 2012

Dara Birnbaum - South London Gallery

When Phil first suggested that I should go look at Dara Birnbaum I lost the first half of the sentence and for several sentences I thought he was talking about my tutor Ana. I guess it was a happy mistake because it made me really interested. When I realized my mistake I didn’t really care, it sounded like something worth seeing. 

Phil mentioned that Birnbaum was on the vanguard of videoart, I’m kinda glad that he did, because it was helpful to have that in mind when I looked at the older pieces up stairs. I mean, the one called “attack piece” was really cool, but then there was a lot of different variations on “doing weird shit in front of the camera” which just bored me. The “Attack piece” one was interesting, it consisted of two screens facing each other in a small room. It alternated between showing the same scenes from a garden picnic slightly out of sync and showing video on one and photos on the other. The video and photos corresponded to each other in that the photos was of a man filming something while running around and the video was of a woman running around with a camera taking pictures. It was fun and playful, but also had something of an afterthought to it.

There was also two other video pieces, I liked the one with interviews with people on the boat outside Ellis island, the one with the confusing narrative I might’ve liked if I’d felt better and had more time to look at it.

Downstairs there was the new piece. “Arabesque” It consisted of four screens showing series of video in a loop. Some of the time all four screens showed footage of girls playing the piano. On the far right screen this was sometimes cut with scenes from a play where a couple agonized about their child leaving home or something, old television style. On the screen next to it the piano scenes were cut with text waxing melancholicaly about loosing ones ability to do what one loves most. 

Dot, who actually read the little booklet told me that the couple in the old television style drama was ment to portray Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann. The melancholic snippets were from Clara Schumanns diary. And the music played was alternately a piece by Robert and a piece by Clara. Maybe I’d be more able to tell any qualitative difference between the two compositions if I had studied music, but as an ignorant I found it difficult to understand why one piece could lead to a man being praised for centuries, while the other didn’t bring any recognition for a woman. A woman who the leaflet informs us, actually supported her family of eight children by playing while Robert was plagued by depressions.

Altogether “Arabesque” is a haunting piece if you read the information or not, but if you do read the little leaflet it might give you some pause too. After all, there might be many more women out there who did astounding things, but who were never recorded because their contribution to culture was deemed irrelevant. 

Sadly Saturday was the last day of the exhibition, but I'm sure there must be something online if anybody is interested in checking it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment