Lynn Marie Kirby

Lynn Marie Kirby is a San Francisco-based artist who makes films, videos, and site responsive installations.

Her recent work has staged interventions at specific architectural locations, choreographing or performing collaborative gestures that engage the public in the history of these sites: to hold to miss to remember (outside the Madonna dell' Orto Church near the Venice Biennale, 2017); somehow this relates to love (at St. Ignatius church, San Francisco, 2019). These projects chart particularities of embodied existence: the experiences of life as a Western woman and a mother; of childhood, adolescence, and family life; of time with friends, collaborators, and strangers. These experiences are set in the context of contemporary concerns, such as a recent glaring indifference to the plights of refugees and asylum-seekers. Kirby asks a searing question: Where is the missing tenderness? The gesture of caring for the Other? These projects have been generously supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission, by Cultural Equities grants, and through faculty development grants from California College of the Arts, where Kirby is a professor of Fine Arts and Film.

Kirby's earlier work in film (Sincerely, 1980; Sharon and the Birds on the Way to the Wedding, 1989; Three Domestic Interiors, 1994) look at the ways women's public and private experiences intertwine. This work was supported by Jerome Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants and was exhibited in festivals at Oberhausen, London, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Ann Arbor. Sincerely, a film about choice, continues to play at screenings and festivals: a film perhaps more timely than ever.

Since the mid-1990s, Kirby has been experimenting with camera-less filmmaking, and has incorporated emerging video technologies into her celluloid practice. Her original process was to first expose 16mm film to the light of various sites (The Translation Series, 1997 - 2003) and then to transfer the exposed film to digital media as a live performance (The Latent Light Excavation Series, 2003 - 2007). Each final projection in the Latent Light Excavation series is a document of the landscape itself, a slice through time of what lies below the visible - an archive and critique of what it means to be American. The projections explore how sites carry traces of their history and act as reservoirs of memory. In a hybrid process, Kirby employs both 16mm film and digitization to excavate her chosen sites. These explorations began in a residency at Djerassi (In a Disturbed Landscape, 2006) and are a continuation of Kirby's engagement with American history and its residue in the land and in our memory. Early work in this series (Fields of Grain, 1984 - ongoing) was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has been shown at DIM, Vancouver, and in a multi-screen installation at the Oakland Museum. This site/light excavation work was widely screened: at festivals (including Toronto and San Francisco); at solo screenings (the Pacific Film Archive and MOMA New York); and as installations (Manage in St. Petersburg; Shepard's Gallery Reno, Nevada). It was recently the subject of a symposium in Paris (Voire San Prendre? Les Latent Light Excavations de Lynn Marie Kirby et le cinema sans la prise de vue, 2019).

Concurrently Kirby worked on The Time Dilation series (1999 - 2010), which attends to the slippage between and through digital frames and to the gaps and glitches between recording systems and the histories they record.

In the late 90's and early 2000's, hard drives weren't fast enough to keep pace with the digitizing process. They skipped and jumped, causing inadvertent time holes and machine edits. Kirby used the qualities as the basis for editing this work in real time. When systems crashed, cuts occurred. The remote was also used while shooting as a means for moving through space, or to fast forward or rewind the tape, in a kind of part-human/part-machinic editorial process. Each live improvisation is a "gesture in time" (a one take) laid down on the digital time line. Time/ space relationships were not determined only by Kirby, but by the hardware/ software of the machine. Kirby says she was concerned in these works with a temporality of the "in-time-ness" of things rather than with drama or characters (see Choreography for Camera Remote, 2000 - 2001; Out of Step, 1999; Six-Shooter, 2003); they were widely screened and/or set up as installations in museums (the Whitney Museum; LACMA; the Thomas Erben Gallery; and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts).
In many of this works, Kirby was less interested in how the image reads as a 'picture' (or its overt narrative content) than on how image-production functions through a machine: with density and density shifts; the component pixel make-up of color and light changes; the generation of movement; and so on. Her recent projects, concerned as they are with missing gestures of tenderness, return her attention to narrative content and its interface with lived human life. Kirby's backgrounds in cinema, performance, and sculpture, allow her most recent work to rove between media, from film to video to web-based platforms and handheld devices, from screen to installation, to her most recent site interventions.

The Alhambra Project, 2016, a site intervention at the Alhambra Theater/ Crunch gym in San Francisco, 2016, is an example of the scope and density of her recent projects. The screens in the theater were taken over by Kirby, with tours of the actual Alhambra Palace in Spain. Group exercise classes were offered based on movements from Grade B films that once screened at the movie theater when it was active from 1926 - 1996. Kirby excerpted portions of these Hollywood films and transformed the movements into an exercise video projected for the public on the extant theater screen. A walking-app phone tour of seventeen sites around the theater was the third size screen used in this neighborhood site installation intervention.

These recent projects often include poetic experimental texts that can be carried away as broadsheets or books. Several of Kirby's collaborations with the poet Etel Adnan are forthcoming as a book in 2019. Her most recent work uses scent, taste, and touch to explore expanded embodied perception beyond the visual and aural.