Psalm 29(30), 2016
Artist: Dara Birnbaum
Six-channel video and sound installation, colour, 8 mins looped, edition 1/3
The genesis of this work dates back to 2014 when, following an extended period of hospitalization, the chanted Psalm 29(30) provided Birnbaum with the possibilities of healing and became a source of inspiration. This is a psalm of thanksgiving, to be sung in pious solemnity. It is believed it was written upon King David’s recovery from a dangerous fit of sickness, and therefore for Birnbaum the psalm also “addresses the contradiction between light and dark, life and death”.
“The whole installation is a meditation on the possibility of healing, an environment formulated so that within its central position one can confront images of war without the spectacle deployed by most mass media and the news industry.” Dara Birnbaum, 2016
Birnbaum’s concern regarding the spectacle of war recalls Susan Sontag’s questioning of war photography. “Is there an antidote to the perennial seductiveness of war?” contemplates Sontag. With Psalm 29(30), Birnbaum asks the question: “Can suffering be portrayed in such a way that reflection can take place, in place of manipulated fear, anguish, or anger?”
A pioneering video, media, and installation artist, Birnbaum made her first video installation entitled “Attack piece” in 1975. She always resisted the idea of limiting video to being solely a projection in a darkened space. She is one of the first artists to have designed complex and innovative video installations, juxtaposing video imagery from various sources while integrating large-scale photographs with sculptural or architectural elements. She is also known for having used groundbreaking strategies when manipulating television footage. Over the past four decades Dara Birnbaum has developed a body of work that addresses both the ideological and the aesthetic characters of mass media imagery, and is today considered fundamental to the history of media art.
© Dara Birnbaum and Marian Goodman Gallery