Screening
Julia Stoschek Collection

Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman

Dara Birnbaum
1978/79 / video / colour / sound

Harsh flashes of light and spins accompany the transformation of Wonder Woman. In "Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman" (1978/79) Dara Birnbaum uses images from popular culture to expose existing ideologies and to deconstruct them with their own tools.

The superheroine Wonder Woman from the series of the same name at the moment of her transformation, with star-spangled costume, wavy blow-dry hairdo and perfect make-up.

Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978/79. Vdeo, 5'45", colour, sound. Video still.

Courtesy of the artist and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York. On loan from the JULIA STOSCHEK FOUNDATION, Berlin/Düsseldorf

  • 5 min 45 sec

In her work ‘Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman’, Dara Birnbaum appropriates images from the popular 70s TV series ‘Wonder Woman’, slowing down the “technological speed” of television in order to allow the viewer to question the medium. This work dates back to the beginning of Birnbaum’s exploration of the dissemination of images through the media and the ideologies and concepts connected with them.

The superhero Wonder Woman was created by the American psychologist William Marston as the female counterpart to the muscle-bound Superman and, in the comic book with the same title, she was able to “save the world through the power of love.” Wearing a scanty stars-and-stripes costume, magic bracelets, a diadem in her flowing blow-dried hair, and perfect make-up, Wonder Woman was played in the TV series by former Miss World USA Lynda Carter, who was able to transform herself from an inconspicuous secretary into the superhero with one spin.

In her remix of selected TV images, Dara Birnbaum concentrates on the moment of transformation, the symbolic content of the flash of light accompanied by a series of spins that signals the protagonist’s transition to become a superhero. The banal reduction of this transformation to a lighting trick and the almost touching seriousness of the performance now seem like elements of a Dadaist montage technique brought forward using the time-appropriate means of video recording. Here the critical subtext is balanced by the effect of parody, as the manipulative character of the TV figure becomes obvious and the heroine herself a puppet.