Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, by Dara Birnhaum (1977-78)
Video art challenges conventional ways of TV broadcast which is in a linear and structured manner. Similary, Dara Birnbaum’s mashedup was stitched in the dynamics of a 3-act-structure, despite relentless gifs of her power performances.
Perhaps it was through tinted lens do I see it as the amplification of atrocities and justified troll. It appears satirical to a contemporary audience and rouses skepticism in light of the banality of the overdone visual effects. Suggestively regressive in film editing techniques, one must, however, acknowledge the subversion of the everyday consumption of television then, unnecessary in adherence to Walter Murch’s evaluation. Contextually a keystone in Birnbaum’s artistic career, it is in the art happenings in the period of 1977-78, where feminist art movement was very much favoured we may savour layers of her media manipulation attempt.
The subject of this work of art involves Wonder Woman, a cultural icon since inception. When William Moulton Marston brought Wonder Woman to life in 1941, he gave it up to feminist ideals and female empowerment. “(She) encourages women to stand up for themselves, to learn to fight, and be strong, so they don’t have to be scared, or depend on men”.
At first sight, Birnhaum’s work was in dominance in relatable concerns to pioneers of video art in technological production. It was also an ideological critique of the popular culture, as such, comics. Many, like artists, were seeking to “talk back” to television, the medium for broadcasting. On the other hand, video was also an advancement in search for a new visual language. This “new media” technique, through sampling and collage fulfilled the mechanism of deconstruction in sexist ideology, beckoning the wild reception.
Much contradictory to the notion of kitschness, Dara Birnhaum’s critique was high-brow from a critical distance on low-brow mass consumerism — not of condescension, but rather, a facilitation on the celebration of feminism.