Everything's Gonna Be...

1976, 10:57 min, b&w, sound

"Everything’s Gonna Be... is a single-channel video that features one of Dara Birnbaum’s earliest uses of materials appropriated from mass-media sources. The artist brings together performance, photographic images from magazines and newspapers, handwritten and spoken texts, and popular music in a fragmented narrative collage. As such, Everything’s Gonna Be... represents a departure from her earliest performance video exercises and a move toward her seminal investigations of the cultural and political meaning of mass-media texts.

The video begins with the artist rhythmically intoning the phrase "Everything's gonna be alright" while a young woman and man dance awkwardly. The dancers are over-laid with images taken from magazines, newspapers, and soap-opera digests depicting cultural figures that were well known in mid-1970's America: Patty Hearst, the TV character Mary Hartman, the soap-opera star Susan Lucci. The couple dances to the Bob Marley song "No Woman, No Cry," from which the title of the piece, and Birnbaum's chant, is drawn. Hand-lettered fragments of text that are presented as intertitles— "Feeling quite high, Claudette decides to go to 'the chateau' for some fun," for example— are dislodged from a melodramtic narrative that Birnbaum is heard reading in voice-over.

The dancing couple reappears at intervals, moving nonchalantly to the Marley song. We hear Birnbaum reading from a second text about presidential sex scandal, as iconic media images of JFK and Jackie alternate with more handwritten fragments: "The marriage certainly got off to a bad start"; "you're my ideal, Jackie, he once told her." The appropriated materials take on an increasingly topical tone as images appear of tabloid-newspaper headlines that allude to late 1960s and 1970s political sex scandals: "Nixon and the Chinese mystery woman," "Teddy's Midnight Swim."

Birnbaum has cited Jean-Luc Godard as an important influence on her early works, a relation suggested her by the disjunctive formal strategies and political undercurrent. At the end of the piece, Birnbaum again intones the phrase "Everything's gonna be alright," as if trying to convince herself of the fact. She then recites— and presents as handwritten intertitles— additional lyrics from the Marley song, concluding with the line, "in this great future, you can't forget your past." In an analysis that seems to speak to the personal as well as the social, Birnbaum formulates a fragmented narrative of the mediated culture of America in the mid-1970s, in which the future is refracted through the recent past." (LZ)

- Text reprinted with permission from Dara Birnbaum: The Dark Matter of Media Light. Karen J.Kelly, Barbara Schröder, and Giel Vandecaveye. Ghent/Porto/Munich: Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst/Museu Serralves/Del Monico Books-Prestel, 2011. p. 174.

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