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IN CONVERSATION: DARA BIRNBAUM AND CORY ARCANGEL

IF CERTAIN CRITICAL OPERATIONS first explored by artists during the 1970s and ’80s have since become nearly ubiquitous in visual culture—with, for example, the isolation and manipulation of popular imagery, once the purview of avant-garde practice, now common among homemade videos placed online—then what are the most significant obstacles, opportunities, and shifts in attitude for artists working in these modes now? Artforum invited DARA BIRNBAUM—pioneering video artist and subject of a pivotal retrospective next month at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium (April 4–August 2)—to sit down with media artist and programmer CORY ARCANGEL and compare notes on art in light of widespread appropriation, outmoded applications, and increasingly divergent audiences. Part of their conversation has been reproduced below. For the rest, pick up the March issue of Artforum.

Cory Arcangel, The Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” Glockenspiel Addendum, 2006. Performance view, Light Industry, New York, August 5, 2008. Photo: Damien Crisp.

CORY ARCANGEL: Recently I read an interview in which you said clubs provided one of the first outlets for your videos. In other words, you felt you could make videos to be projected in clubs at the same time you made videos that were to be shown in art spaces. Was that specific to the time? It made me wonder how the context for video has changed over the past thirty years or so.

DARA BIRNBAUM: Well, to clarify just a bit, I was saying that whenever I made a work, I believed it could be inserted into different contexts. It wasn’t that I was actually making different work for a specific venue. You see, when I started, video was a very bastardized medium, mainly separated out from the arts. The only video I knew of within the arts in the 1970s consisted mostly of extensions of performance art, body art, or Earth art. Video was understood almost as an expanded documentary format,

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