Dara Birnbaum

Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry


Werk - Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry
Artist / Artist group
Dara Birnbaum
Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
Betacam SP, color, stereo
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

Dara Birnbaum is one of the most influential contemporary video artists to engage with the power of the mass medium of television. In »Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry«, she presents a multilayered analysis of stereotypical male and female attempts at self-presentation in the then-famous American TV game show Hollywood Squares. Birnbaum uses unbroadcast footage in this deconstruction, which shows the contestants – “iconic women” and “bald men” – sitting in a kind of shelf rack of illuminated square boxes. They are invited to greet the millions of television viewers with a “hello.” The video artist isolates individual gestures from the context of the show. In the repetition of the sequences, facial expressions and sometimes bizarre movements are focused. The feminine and masculine self-presentations demonstrate conformity, power, or submission.

The presentations are accompanied by disco songs, including »Georgy Porgy« (Toto, 1979). The lyrics “Georgy Porgy pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry” can only be heard – the refrain is faded in as text. In her videographic analysis, Birnbaum criticizes the pseudo-individual representation of feminine stereotypes in the TV industry, also focusing on the TV game show as a spectacle of gender dynamics.

Author: Jenny Starick