David Birkin

Artist and Writer, United States

David Birkin is an artist and writer based in New York. He is a visiting fellow at University of the Arts London where he co-founded Visible Justice, a transdisciplinary research platform for photographers, journalists, artists, activists, and human rights lawyers working at the intersection of visual culture and social justice. Birkin studied at Oxford University, the Slade, and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program; he was an artist in residence at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the Art & Law Program. His work focuses on the ethics and aesthetics of contemporary warfare and the apparatus of state power: its rhetoric, imagery, technology, and legal frameworks. Past projects include a collaboration with the courtroom sketch artist at Guantánamo, a simulated software crash on digital billboards in Times Square, and a skywriting project above Manhattan. Birkin has written for Frieze, Cabinet, Creative Time, Ibraaz, and the American Civil Liberties Union, and has exhibited widely including at The Mosaic Rooms, London; Fotomuseum, Antwerp; Société d’Électricité, Brussels; MUDAM, Luxembourg; and the Benaki Museum, Athens.

Now the word is yours, British Airways advertisement, 1973

“To Fly, To Serve” — Aerospace, Empire, and Britain’s Postimperial Quest to Colonise the Skies

David Birkin will spend his time at Camargo editing an essay-film relating to the British aerospace and arms industries. From airline slogans and air force propaganda to drone surveillance and deportation flights, the aircraft has become an emblem of imperialist ideology. Birkin's film will use this vision of aerial supremacy as a lens through which to view how the mythologies and iconographies of Britain’s legitimizing discourses project an image of neocolonial power, while inscribing notions of nationalism, paternalism, consumerism, and class.

Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Saudi Arabia aboard Concorde following the Iranian Revolution, 1979
Margaret Thatcher at a British Aerospace fighter jet factory following the Falklands War, 1982