There are just 2 days left to see Dara Birnbaum’s solo exhibition “Arabesque” at Marian Goodman Gallery. I wish I could say ‘Put on your sprinters and charge on over!’, but frankly you’re better off staying home and revisiting Technology and Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978).
“Arabesque” (2010), the title piece of the exhibition is disappointingly dispassionate. The multi-channel projection purports to tell a love story via two piano compositions: one written by husband for wife and the other by wife for husband. Three of the four screens recycle YouTube clips of clearly unprofessional female pianists performing Robert Schumann’s Arabesque Opus 18. The fourth screen samples clips of the only performance on YouTube of Clara Schumann’s Romanze 1, Opus 11 spliced with texts from her diary and excerpts from the 1947 film “Song of Love”. The performances by both casually garbed pianists in their living rooms and overly primped teenagers and toddlers in recital halls, meld into one mediocre melody, not improved by the compressed audio native to YouTube. The text and film clips offer nothing but additional confusion. The grand scale of the installation, (8 speakers/4 monitors in a giant gallery space) begs the work to have the authority of image and sound that Christian Marclay explodes in Video Quartet, but it fails in both cases and has left critics to rely on the press release to explain the work rather than simply discredit it, as they should.