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.
Nam June Paik was a notable video artist who helped ushered in the new development of electronic technology. Paik transformed literal representation of moving images to expressive elements. Formally trained in music and performance, Paik approached TV as an artistic tool to work around time-based art.
“I think I understand time better than the video artist who came from painting-sculpture. Music is the manipulation of time. All music forms have different structures and buildup. As painters understand abstract space, I understand abstract time.”
In the late 1960s, Charlotte Moorman, a cellist, performance artist, an produce of the New York Avant-Garde Festivals is a significant collaborator with Paik.
TV Bra For Living Sculpture by Nam June Paik, 1969
In TV Bra For Living Sculpture, he is moving the TV from traditional setting into wearable technology. The hypnotic quality of the glitchy images immerses the audience. The “male gaze” in feminist theory is challenged when looking at the female body to fixate in a non-sexual manner. A woman’s body perceived as a “living sculpture”, instead of instant objectification.
In many instance, Paik’s “human” element and its intersection with art and technology is frequented. TV Cello is one other.
TV Cello by Nam June Paik, 1961
Paik created the form of a cello using monitors for which Charlotte Moorman, performs with. Moorman drew the bow, causing the images on the monitors to change.
“Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body’s new membrane of existence.”
Both works of art by Nam June Paik distinctly accentuates his desire to humanise the TV, or rather the TV and an extension of Moorman’s body. Paik envisions technology as an artistic tool that liberates expression and transforms the world. His visual and conceptual influence has extended to today’s contemporary art practice.
Garrett Landry, 2010. Nam June Paik: Electronic Expression. Retrieved from m: