“To learn to see the frame that binds us to what we see is no easy matter. And if there is a critical role for visual culture during times of war it is precisely to thematize the forcible frame, the one that conducts the dehumanizing norm, that restricts what is perceivable and, indeed, what can be.” Judith Butler, 'Frames of War'
“Censorship is not the mutilation of the show, it is the show. The code is the message. It points to the absolute by hiding it. That is what religions have always done.” Chris Marker, 'Sans Soleil'
David Birkin is an Anglo-American artist who lives and works between New York and London. Much of his practice reflects on the failure of images and the relationship between photography and loss. Combining original and appropriated imagery with sculpture and performance -- and a conceptual approach that teeters between the systematic and the absurd -- his work deals with limitations on visibility: absence, the unseen, the ephemeral and the ineffable. At its core is a concern for the forces that mediate between the personal and the political, the precariousness of power and the fragility of life.
Through talks, writing and curating, he examines critical perspective on issues related to ethics and aesthetics such as depictions of violence, embedded photojournalism and military censorship.
Birkin studied anthropology at Oxford University and fine art at the Slade. He was awarded a bursary by the National Media Museum in 2009 and in 2010 won the Sovereign European Art Prize for ‘Diptych’ from the series Confessions, exhibited at the Barbican. His work has featured in exhibitions at the Courtauld Institute, Paradise Row, Trolley, Beaconsfield, Hot Shoe, Michael Hoppen, Photo50, Format Festival, Derby, Photomonth, Krakow, the Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow and the Saatchi Gallery’s ‘New Sensations’ exhibition.
In 2011 Birkin curated the exhibition Moments of Reprieve: Representing Loss in Contemporary Photography with Taryn Simon, Ori Gersht, Idris Khan, Indre Serpytyte and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin during Photography Month at the Tallinn Kunstihoone in Estonia. He has performed in films by Nathaniel Mellors for the ICA, Tate Triennial, British Art Show and Venice Biennale, and narrated the English translation of Chris Marker and Alan Resnais‘1953 film Les statues meurent aussi at the French Institute in London. Previously, he wrote and photographed editorial commissions on subjects including conscientious objectors during the 2005 Israel-Lebanon War, the training of female journalists in post-Taliban Kabul, and filmmaker Siddiq Barmak’s Afghan Film Institute.
Birkin has given talks and lectures at Daniel Blau, Hot Shoe Gallery, Photo50, the Estonian Academy of Arts, the Solyanka State Gallery and the Slade School of Fine Art, and is a director of the Speakers’ Society: a non-profit forum for debate in contemporary art and politics. Past speakers include Tate Curator of Photography Simon Baker, writer Marina Warner, philosophers Simon Critchley and John Gray, and artists Jake Chapman and Cornelia Parker.
Press publications include Artforum Critics' Picks, 1000 Words, Hot Shoe, Art in America, Whitewall, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Art Review & Frieze.
Birkin recently completed a commissioned portrait of a North Korean refugee for the Photographers’ Gallery, London. He is currently on VLA’s Art & Law Residency in New York, with a forthcoming exhibition at the Dumbo Arts Center in Brooklyn.…Read More
VLA Art & Law Residency Exhibition | Dumbo Arts Center, New York
The World in London | Photographers’ Gallery, London
Photographers Transcending the Print | Photo50, London (curator: Sue Steward)
Mirror Gaze | Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow
New Sensations | Saatchi Gallery
Moments of Reprieve | Tallinn Kunstihoone, Estonia
MA Degree Show | Slade School of Fine Art, UCL
Fraternize | Beaconsfield (curator: Rachel Howard)
Everlast (live performance) | ICA, London
Other Criteria | Armory Art Fair, New York
Sovereign European Art Prize Exhibition | Barbican Centre, London
Aktualnosci: Photography in Britain | Photomonth, Krakow
East Wing IX | Courtauld Institute of Art
Exposure | National Media Museum
Play | Paradise Row, London
Starting with a Photograph | Saatchi Gallery / Michael Hoppen (curator: Rebecca Wilson)
Natural Wonders: New Art from London | Baibakov Art Projects, Moscow
Form | La Galerie Nuke, Paris
The Body Beyond Death | Trolley, London
The Letting Go | T1+2 Gallery, London
Vanishing Point | Madder 139, London
A Letter from the Boneyard, Afghanistan | Eleven Fine Art, London
Fame & Promise | Victoria Miro Gallery, London
SCHOLARSHIPS, RESIDENCIES & AWARDS
Four Corners Film & Photography Residency, London
VLA Art & Law Residency, New York
2010-11 Arts & Humanities Research Council Scholarship for Graduate Study
Sovereign European Art Prize
National Media Museum Bursary
Filmed performances for Nathaniel Mellors: Tate Triennial Altermodern, Tate Britain (2009); British Art Show, Hayward Gallery (2010); ICA London (2011).
Director / talks coordinator of the Speakers’ Society: a forum for debate in contemporary art, culture and politics. Past speakers include: John Gray, Simon Baker, Jake Chapman Simon Critchley, Cornelia Parker & Marina Warner. Sponsored by Outset Contemporary Art Fund: www.thespeakerssociety.org
Photojournalism: conscientious objectors of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, Siddiq Barmak’s Afghan Film Institute & the training of female journalists in post-Taliban Kabul.
Narrated the translation of Chris Marker and Alan Resnais’ 1953 film Les statues meurent aussi for the French Institute, London.
Productions for the Royal National Theatre, Peter Hall Company, Arcola Theatre and Brooklyn Academy of Music, N.Y.
Curator of Moments of Reprieve: Representing Loss in Contemporary Photography: Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Ori Gersht, Idris Khan, Indre Serpytyte & Taryn Simon.
Artforum Critics’ Picks, Art in America, Frieze, The Telegraph (Lucy Davies), Evening Standard (Sue Steward), 1000 Words, Hot Shoe Magazine.…Read More
SLADE SCHOOL OF FINE ART | MA Fine Art
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD | BA Anthropology