Opening with a prolonged salvo of fiery explosions accompanied by the warning cry of a siren, Dara Birnbaum’s video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–79) is a concise, action-packed, and visually riveting video. During its seven-minute span we see, again and again, the transformation of the drab secretary Diana Prince into the super-heroic Wonder Woman. By isolating and repeating the moment of transformation--spinning figure, arms outstretched--Birnbaum unmasks the technology at the heart of the metamorphosis. In this illustrated examination of Birnbaum’s video, T. J. Demos situates it in its historical context--among other developments in postmodernist appropriation, media analysis, and feminist politics--and explores the artist’s pioneering attempts to open up the transformative abilities of video as a medium. Demos examines Birnbaum’s influence on such artists as Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, and Candice Breitz, and the turn toward “postproduction procedures”--the mobilization of existing imagery for innovative uses. He also reveals a fascinating historical shift in the reception of Birnbaum’s work: a move from an emphasis on her deconstruction of mass culture ideology to an appreciation of her creative use of consumer imagery.
About the Author
T. J. Demos is a Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University College London and the author of The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007). His essays have appeared in such journals as Artforum, Grey Room, October, and Texte zur Kunst.