Carnegie Mellon University

Dara Birnbaum: Journey

Miller ICA Presents "Dara Birnbaum: Journey"
August 20–December 11, 2022

written by
Margaret Cox

This fall, Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Institute for Contemporary Art (Miller ICA) is pleased to present “Dara Birnbaum: Journey.” The exhibition surveys the extraordinary practice of Dara Birnbaum, whose work has transformed media art discourse over the last 45 years.

“Beginning in the 1970s, Birnbaum was one of the first artists to use manipulated television footage in groundbreaking video and installation work that addressed the ideological and aesthetic character of mass media imagery. She is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists working today,” said Elizabeth Chodos, exhibition curator and director of the Miller ICA. 

"Throughout her career, Birnbaum has continually produced penetrative interrogations of mass media as technological transformations enabled seismic shifts in the consumption of information and entertainment."

Elizabeth Chodos
Director, Miller Institute for Contemporary Art

“This exhibition emphasizes Birnbaum’s remarkable ability to unearth timeless questions in her ongoing efforts to reclaim power against dominant media paradigms — a unique skill that imbues her work with exceptional prescience,” Chodos explained.

“Dara Birnbaum: Journey” is a homecoming for the artist, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. To mark this special occasion, the Miller ICA has commissioned a new work that premieres during the exhibition.

Birnbaum uses digitized 16mm family footage taken by her father in the earliest years of her life as the foundation of the new work, about which she writes, “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 period when the American Dream was weaponized by the United States, after emerging ‘victorious’ from this world war.” In this politically polarized moment in America, Birnbaum turns her gaze toward the origins of her own life and the genesis of the powerful national narrative that has helped shape a fractured American consciousness.

Artist Bio

Dara Birnbaum was born in New York in 1946 where she continues to live and work. She received a bachelor of architecture degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a certificate in video and electronic editing at the Video Study Center at the New School for Social Research, New York.

Dara Birnbaum, from a video as a child.

Birnbaum's work is the subject of the retrospective “Dara Birnbaum: Reaction,” at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, New York (2022), and has been widely exhibited at MoMA PS1, New York (2019); National Portrait Gallery, London (2018); Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (2018); South London Gallery, UK (2011); major retrospectives at the Serralves Foundation, Porto, Portugal (2010) and S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium (2009); Center for Contemporary Art, CCA Kitakyushu (2009); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria (2006); and The Jewish Museum, New York (2003); her work was exhibited in Documenta 7, 8 and 9.

Birnbaum has been the recipient of various distinguished awards such as: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2021); The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Arts Residency (2011); the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011); and the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship (2010). In 2016, she was recognized and honored for her work by The Kitchen, New York, at their annual gala. She is the first woman in video to receive the prestigious Maya Deren Award by the American Film Institute in 1987. In February 2017, Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art created The Birnbaum Award in the artist’s honor.

First and second floor galleries of the Miller ICA opened on August 20. The full exhibition opens on September 23, with the premiere of the newly commissioned work spanning the third floor.

more about the gift:

Dara Birnbaum: Journey was curated by Elizabeth Chodos, the director of the Miller ICA, assistant professor of curatorial practice in the School of Art, and the public art curator for Carnegie Mellon University. The exhibition was generously supported by Carnegie Mellon University Alumna and Emeritus Trustee, Patti Askwith Kenner (MM, 1966), an indefatigable advocate for social causes; The Fine Foundation; and with major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

featuring the following:

images from Journey: In the Shadow of the American Dream, 2022. Commissioned by the Miller ICA.

graphical elements from "Dara Birnbaum: Reaction"