5000 GBP / In stock.
David Birkin

Spectrum, 2014
C-type print of the spectral lines of lithium  
Dimensions: 25,4 x 152,4cm

Since the 19th century, the element lithium has been used in just-below-toxic doses as a mood stabiliser for the treatment of mania and bipolar disorder. Like all elements, lithium has a distinct atomic footprint which can be measured in terms of the gaps in the frequencies it reflects or absorbs across the electromagnetic spectrum.  These 'spectral lines' cleave the chromatic continuum into a series of bands, not dissimilar to our own culturally contingent perceptions of colour.  Historical ambivalence surrounding the definition of the colour indigo is one such example: Oliver Sacks famously imbibing what he described as a 'pharmacological launchpad' of LSD, amphetamines and marijuana in an attempt to perceive this elusive hue. Certain mental illnesses are also described as existing on a continuum, and the diagnostic criteria used to classify and pathologise patients may range from a set of symptom categories, to the way a particular patient responds pharmacologically.  To this extent, how we distinguish one mental 'illness' from another can feel as subjective and arbitrary as the way we divide a rainbow into discrete colours.  The work's title, Spectrum, refers to both the medical term for a mental illness with no fixed diagnostic criteria, and to the latin word for 'image' or 'apparition'.

David Birkin (b. 1977) is an artist working between New York and London. He is a graduate of Oxford University and the Slade School of Fine Art and was a fellow at the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program.
Birkin started out 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 and on the Art & Law Program in New York.  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 for Creative Time Reports and the American Civil Liberties Union and has given talks at Oxford University's Institute for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict, the London College of Communication, and in association with Culture + Conflict. He has exhibited internationally at the Courtauld Institute, Photographers’ Gallery, Mosaic Rooms, Saatchi Gallery, HotShoe, Cøpperfield and Trolly Books, London; the Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow; Photomonth, Krakow; Tallinn Kunstihoone, Estonia; Benaki Museum, Athens; Gervasuti Foundation, Venice; Centre d'Art et Photographie, Lectoure; MUDAM Museum of Modern Art, Luxembourg; FotoFest, Houston; MoMA PS1 Rockaway Dome and the Whitney Museum ISP, New York.