david birkin

MOSTYN Open 21 Spotlight: David Birkin

This week Wales Arts Review casts a spotlight on the Welsh and Wales-based artists on the exhibition shortlist of Llandudno’s MOSTYN Open 21 award, a carefully selected list of 30 international artists from over 750 submissions. Next up is David Birkin.

David Birkin is a New York-based artist who grew up between London and North Wales. Working with lawyers, journalists and human rights organisations, much of his practice examines the way war is depicted: its mythology, iconography, and the language and legal frameworks that underpin it. Past projects include a collaboration with the courtroom sketch artist at Guantánamo, a skywriting performance above Manhattan, a digital billboard project in Times Square, and a plane circling the Statue of Liberty. Birkin studied at Oxford University, the Slade School of Fine Art, and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has written on the ethics and aesthetics of conflict

for Frieze, Cabinet, Creative Time, Ibraaz, and the American Civil Liberties Union, and has exhibited at The Mosaic Rooms, London; the Benaki Museum, Athens; MUDAM Museum of Modern Art, Luxembourg; Fotomuseum, Antwerp; and the BFI. He is a co- founder of the research collective Visible Justice at LCC, University of the Arts London. He also assists the artist and theorist Martha Rosler.

“My father has lived near Pwllheli for the past 40 years, and my brothers and sister still live there (although I’m now based in New York). I spent much of my childhood on the Llŷn Peninsula and still go there several times a year to visit family. I share an old farm near Nefyn with my brother and have converted the former cowshed into an art studio. 

 I’m also currently working on a new body of work about the Welsh landscape’s historical relationship to the film industry and the military. (For example, the shooting of Carry On Up the Khyber in Snowdonia due to its perceived resemblance to the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, and the training of fighter jet pilots out of RAF Valley in Anglesey.) The project will include the use of archival video, photography, text, performance and installation.”

david birkin

Charade (2018)

Charade is a video by David Birkin filmed in collaboration with the human rights organisation Reprieve, together with over 50 actors, artists, musicians and performers, which reflects on questions of censorship, secrecy, and the repression of people’s personal and political voice. The work was made in response to a secret directive authorising British military intelligence agents to engage in criminal acts. For their performance, each participant was asked to mime whatever crime they believe MI5 operatives could be licensed to commit, using the rules of the game ‘charades’ to convey each syllable silently.


To find out more about MOSTYN Open 21 you can visit the gallery website here.

This week Wales Arts Review will be casting a spotlight on the other six Welsh or Wales-based artists on the competition exhibition shortlist before the end of the exhibition on October 27th. The winners are announced on October 22nd.