Dara Birnbaum

Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman


Werk - Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman
Artist / Artist group
Dara Birnbaum
Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
Betacam SP, color, stereo
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

“[Capturing] arresting moments of TV time for the viewer, which would then allow for examination and questioning." [1]

Dara Birnbaum is one of the most influential contemporary video artists to have explored the power of television as a mass medium. The artist herself described her videos as works that manipulate a medium that is itself manipulative – “new readymades for the late 20th century.”

In her five-minute video »Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman«, Birnbaum uses scenes from the popular television series »WONDERWOMAN«, which aired in the U.S.A. starting in 1975. She focuses on the sudden transformation of the secretary, played by Lynda Carter, into the heroic character Wonder Woman. In the repetition of the sequence, Birnbaum deprives the medium of TV of its technical speed and allows the viewer to take a look behind the surface. What is discussed is the social norm of female identity, which is presented as an oversexualized persona. This impression is underlined acoustically with the song Wonder Woman Disco (Wonderland Disco, 1978): “Show you all the powers I possess… And ou-u-uu-uuu make sweet music to you baby… Ah-h I just wanna shake thy wonder maker for you.”

Birnbaum’s critique of the representation of women in pop culture remains relevant and timely to this day.

[1] Dara Birnbaum cited, in Benjamin Buchloh, ed., »Rough Edits: Popular Image Video Works 1977-1980« (Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1987), 13.

Author: Jenny Starick

About the artist/s