Burt Barr

Reshaping traditional film and television narrative, Burt Barr's videotapes articulate the interior voice of fiction through a corresponding visual expression. Barr's understated narratives, which include minimalist fiction, wry anecdotes, and nonlinear performance documents, relay their stories through precise, lucid imagery and a spare use of language. In recent years he has translated these formal and narrative strategies into works that take the form of video projection installations.

Barr's enigmatic tales of anonymous men and women caught by circumstance and unable to act with conviction — the voyeuristic neighbor in The Woman Next Door (1984), the doomed vacationer of The Dogs (1989) — depict confined inner lives and the isolation of urban America. With deadpan humor and wry detachment, he constructs heightened narrative tension and subtle psychological drama by employing strict formal structures and a rigorous economy of visual and verbal means.

Barr's performance works, including Trisha and Carmen (1988) and Aeros (1990), blur the line between fiction and document. Transforming conventional documentary technique, Barr eschews plot-driven stories, allowing a narrative line to emerge from his subject, rather than imposing one. A short story writer who began working in video in 1984, Barr creates elliptical narratives that distill the irresolution and complex internal nuances of everyday life.

Barr received a B.A. from Boston University. He has received numerous grants and awards from the New York and Massachusetts State Councils on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. In 1998 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also received grants from the American Film Institute, the Andrea Frank Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art. His tapes have been broadcast on public television and exhibited internationally, at festivals and institutions including the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Sebastian Film and Video Festival, Spain; The Reina Sofia Museum; Madrid, Spain; the Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Berlin Film Festival; The Platform Gallery, Turkey; Festival du Nouveau Cinema et de la Video, Montreal; and the International Center of Photography, New York.

Barr lived in New York until his death in 2016.