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Dara Birnbaum: Journey at Carnegie Mellon University Miller Institute for Contemporary Art

August 20–December 11, 2022

Screening and book signing: September 25, 11am–12pm

Dara Birnbaum: Journey, a look at the influential work of Dara Birnbaum, will be shown at the Miller ICA at Carnegie Mellon University. This exhibition examines the development of Birnbaum’s incisive examinations of mass media during a time when technical advancements enabled radical changes in the way that people consumed information and entertainment. In the past 45 years, Birnbaum’s work has continually regained power both inside and against the dominant media paradigms that regulate information access and disseminate ideologies that are coded.

This exhibition takes place at a moment when the media’s influence over American politics and culture is stronger than ever. When Birnbaum noticed in 1977 that the typical American family watched television for up to seven hours and twenty minutes each day, she understood “that’s what [she] had to go after.” The impact of the media today has only grown. American individuals interact with media for more than eleven hours each day, according to the Nielsen Total Audience Report from 2018[1]. This constant flow of knowledge, which is distributed by pervasive technology, has a significant influence on the entire world.

Dara Birnbaum: Journey, curated by Elizabeth Chodos, Director of the Miller ICA, charts the artist’s developing analyses of media over the course of her career and will feature the world premiere of a brand-new piece commissioned by the Miller ICA. “At my age of 75, there is the strong desire to review and bring to the viewer an understanding of growing up in this’shadow’ of WWII, the time when the American Dream was weaponized by the United States, after emerging ‘victorious’ from this world war,” Birnbaum wrote in the working notes for the commission. The new piece makes use of digitized 16mm footage shot by her father during the formative years of her youth, when the American Dream story was most pervasive. The opening of Dara Birnbaum: Reaction, Lauren Cornell’s first exhibition of Birnbaum’s work in the country, at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, corresponds with the thoughtful act of going back in time through family film. It makes perfect sense that Birnbaum would turn her attention to the beginnings of not only her own life but also the genesis of the potent national narrative that has reached its denouement in this highly polarized time in America after a lifetime of engaging in what Cornell calls a “practice [of unsettling] power structures and narratives as they endeavor to become established” through “media and the way it communicates.”

The brand-new book Dara Birnbaum: Reaction, which documents Birnbaum’s enduring and immeasurable influence, is a companion to both shows. Chief Curator of The Hessel Museum of Art Lauren Cornell, writer and critic Alex Kitnick, Dia Art Foundation Curator Jordan Carter, media scholar Erika Balsom, Museum Brandhorst Curator and writer Giampaolo Bianconi, Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen Legacy Russell in conversation with Director of Miller ICA Elizabeth Chodos, and Elizabeth Chodos’ afterword to the conversation are among those who have contributed to this book. The book, which Beverly Joel of Pulp, Ink. created and which Dancing Foxes Press released, focuses on recent scholarly research surrounding Birnbaum’s work. This new volume continues a rich line of research and writing on Birnbaum, all of which have benefited greatly from the artist’s contribution and vision.

[1]“Time Flies: US Adults Spend Nearly Half a Day Interacting with Media,” July 31, 2018, Nielsen.

The Miller ICA’s first and second floor galleries debut on August 20. The freshly commissioned sculpture, which spans the third level, will make its debut on September 23, when the entire exhibition debuts. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah and the opening weekend of the 58th Carnegie International, a screening and book signing will be held. Ms. Dara Birnbaum Patti Askwith Kenner (MM, 1966), a Carnegie Mellon University alumna and emeritus trustee, the Fine Foundation, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts provided significant funding for Journey. For more information visit here.

Miller Institute for Contemporary Art
Purnell Center for the Arts
5000 Forbes Avenue
PA 15213 Pittsburgh
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