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Remy/Grand Central Trains and Boats and Planes

Dara Birnbaum

1980 00:04:00 United StatesEnglishColor


In a piece commissioned by Remy Martin, Birnbaum adopts the language of commercial advertising, using the body, gestures, and glances of a heavily made-up woman to create a scene of glamour and romance—while slipping in a disparaging narrative that touches on the actual use and abuse of Remy Martin's product. Birnbaum sets up a typical commercial, then allows the fictive narrative to intrude, upsetting the advertised fantasy with a dose of unpleasant reality. Burt Bacarach's peppy song intones, "Trains and boats and planes took you away from me—I pray they bring you back," while the beautiful model stands at a railroad crossing, the bottle lifted to her lips, guzzling cognac.

About Dara Birnbaum

An architect and urban planner by training, Dara Birnbaum began using video in 1978 while teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she worked with Dan Graham. Recognized as one of the first video artists to employ the appropriation of television images as a subversive strategy, Birnbaum recontextualizes pop cultural icons (Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978-79) and TV genres (Kiss the Girls: Make them Cry, 1979) to reveal their subtexts. Birnbaum describes her tapes as new “ready-mades” for the late 20th Century—works that “manipulate a medium which is itself highly manipulative.”