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Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman (Birnbaum, Dara), 1976Rio Videowall (Birnbaum, Dara), 1989

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Appropriation, montage: Political/Analytical deconstruction

In the context of fine art in the restricted sense, analytical deconstruction is certainly the most important of the ‹post-utopian› strategies listed. One typical exponent of deconstructive media analysis is Dara Birnbaum, who subjected television as a style to a very precise examination from 1977 to 1980. The psychological and cultural significance of image and editing techniques is revealed in a logical dissection and new montage of TV material. The best known of these videos is «Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman» (1978). It consists of a new montage of key elements from the American TV series «Wonder Woman.» An average woman is transformed, complete with special effects flash, from a typical secretary into the female equivalent of Superman. This event is constantly repeated, which makes it the center and starting-point of a new narrative structure. Birnbaum reports that at a public presentation of the video in the window of the New York «H Hair Salon,» and when the video was shown on television, viewers were disturbed, confusing the video with the familiar television series and waiting in vain for the actual


story.[21] An overdose makes the crucial identification elements in the TV series, which suggested to every female viewer that she might escape from everyday drudgery by being transformed into «Wonder Woman,» into rituals that are as empty as they are fascinating.

In her 1980s videos and installations, Birnbaum used mainly pictures she had taken herself, but for a large public installation she worked with appropriated TV images. «Rio Videowall» (1989) was realized in the Atlanta RIO shopping center as part of a competition, and was the world's first long-term video installation in a public space. Dara Birnbaum used twenty five large monitors to combine pictures of the landscape before the RIO shopping center was built with live television images from CNN, which was started by Ted Turner in Atlanta. She also used a video camera, which superimposed silhouettes of passers-by on the TV and nature images. The constantly changing images from the twenty-four-hour news station, the memories of the former landscape and the outlines of the passers-by again point to the contrast between the private and the public medium, with the 1970s approach expanded by the addition of a historical and sitespecific dimension.

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