David Birkin is an artist based in New York. Born in London, he studied anthropology at Oxford University, fine art at the Slade, and was a fellow of the Art & Law Program, and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Using performance, photography, and text, much of Birkin's work reflects on the way war is depicted: its mythology, iconography, and the language and legal frameworks that underpin it. At its core is a concern for censorship and the edges of visibility, often focusing on omissions, redactions, glitches, or slips in the smooth surface of a political system to disclose a deeper ideological drive.
Birkin began photographing subjects on the periphery of conflict — such as the training of female journalists in Kabul, the founding of Afghan Film, and conscientious objectors during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War — before starting a non-profit lecture series on art and politics. In 2009, he was awarded a bursary by the National Media Museum and a graduate scholarship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Birkin was the recipient of the 2010 Sovereign Art Prize (Barbican, London) and the 2012 Celeste Prize for Photography (Museo Centrale Montemartini, Rome), and was an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. He has performed in films by Nathaniel Mellors for the ICA, Tate Triennial, British Art Show, Hayward Gallery, Venice Biennale and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and narrated the English translation of Chris Marker and Alan Resnais‘ 1953 film Les statues meurent aussi at the French Institute in London.
Birkin has written on the ethics and aesthetics of conflict and its intersection with civilian culture for Frieze; Cabinet; Creative Time Reports; Ibraaz; The Harvard Advocate; and the American Civil Liberties Union’s blog. He has given talks at Oxford University's Institute for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict, LCC University of the Arts London, the Imperial War Museum, Culture + Conflict, and Queens College CUNY, New York. He has exhibited internationally at the Courtauld Institute, The Photographers’ Gallery, The Mosaic Rooms, Saatchi Gallery, Trolly Books, and Photo50, London; Baibakov Art Projects and the Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow; Photomonth, Krakow; the Kunstihoone, Tallinn; the Benaki Museum, Athens; Centre d'Art et Photographie, Lectoure; MUDAM Museum of Modern Art and the Casino, Luxembourg; FotoFest, Houston; Mana Contemporary, MoMA PS1 Rockaway Dome, and the Whitney Museum ISP, New York.