David Birkin

David Tristan Birkin (born 1977) is a British artist working with photography and performance art. He has also worked as a film and theatre actor.

David Birkin
David Tristan Birkin

1977 (1977)
NationalityBritish / American
EducationUniversity of Oxford
Slade School of Fine Art
Whitney Museum Independent Study Program
Parent(s)Andrew Birkin
Elisabeth Guss
RelativesAnno Birkin (half-brother)
Jane Birkin (aunt)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (cousin)
Kate Barry (cousin)
Lou Doillon (cousin)


Birkin studied human sciences and anthropology at Oxford University (1996–1999). He completed an MA at the Slade School of Fine Art (2009–2011) with a scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.[citation needed]

Birkin was a fellow of the Art and Law Program in New York (2011–2012)[1] and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2012–2013).[2] He was an artist-in-residence at Yaddo in 2013,[3] the MacDowell Colony in 2015,[4] and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's studios on Governors Island in 2016.[5]


Much of Birkin's work relates to war. Projects have included a collaboration with the courtroom sketch artist at the Guantanamo military commissions;[6] a digital photographic transcription of identification numbers from the Iraq War civilian casualties database;[7] a photo archive image from Kabul traced to Renaissance lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan;[8] an extract of CIA legalese in skywriting above Manhattan;[9] and a plane circling the Statue of Liberty's torch towing a banner that read "The Shadow of a Doubt".[10]

Birkin has published photo-essays and articles in Frieze,[11] Cabinet,[12] Creative Time Reports,[13] Ibraaz,[14] Disegno,[15] The Harvard Advocate,[16] and the American Civil Liberties Union blog[17] on subjects ranging from a legally protected species of iguana roaming freely at Guantanamo Bay detention camp[18] to Marilyn Monroe's 1945 photoshoot at an army drone factory in California.[19]

In 2010 his performance photographs won him the €25,000 Sovereign Art Prize at the Barbican Centre in London.[20]

His show "Mouths at the Invisible Event" at The Mosaic Rooms in London in 2015[21] was described by Hyperallergic as "a methodical examination of the language, aesthetics, and ethos of modern warfare [that] ultimately makes the emotional reality and Kafkaesque lunacy of such a system hit home".[22]

Birkin has also worked as an actor in film and theatre. He appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation: in the 1990 episode "Family" as René Picard, Captain Jean-Luc Picard's nephew; and the 1992 episode "Rascals", as a young Jean-Luc Picard. His film credits have included roles in The Return of the Musketeers (1989, as Louis XIV), Impromptu (1991), Les Misérables (1998), All the Queen's Men (2001), Charlotte Gray (2001), and Sylvia (2003).[citation needed] In 2010 he appeared in Ourhouse by Nathaniel Mellors.[23]


  1. ^ "Fellows: 2010–present". Art + Law Program
  2. ^ "Whitney Museum Independent Study Program". Whitney Museum of American Art.
  3. ^ "History". 23 August 2016. Yaddo
  4. ^ "History". Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2017. The MacDowell Colony
  5. ^ "David Birkin at LMCC". Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
  6. ^ "Cyclura nubila". a/political.org
  7. ^ "The New Alchemists". 6 November 2013. Photo50
  8. ^ "Blue Skies and Error Screens in David Birkin's Documents of the New York Skyline". Photomonitor
  9. ^ "David Birkin's project Severe Clear (2014), skywriting over New York on Memorial Day weekend". Culture+Conflict
  10. ^ "The Shadow of a Doubt Circles Liberty's Torch". American Civil Liberties Union
  11. ^ "How Important is Art as a Form of Protest?". Frieze
  12. ^ "The Iguanas of Guantánamo". Cabinet
  13. ^ "No Explanation Necessary: A Shroud of Secrecy Surrounds the Drone War's Civilian Casualties". June 2015. Creative Time
  14. ^ "Sous les Pavés, la Plage: On Assumption and Authority". Ibraaz
  15. ^ "A Few Chickens and a Parrot". Disegno
  16. ^ "Law, War, and Some Terms of Art". The Harvard Advocate
  17. ^ "Existence or Nonexistence: CIA's Linguistic Somersault Takes to the Sky". American Civil Liberties Union
  18. ^ "Cyclura nubila". www.davidbirkin.net
  19. ^ "Blonde Bombshells: Marilyn Monroe and Drone Warfare". Frieze
  20. ^ Davies, Lucy (9 June 2010). "Compound Ghosts: David Birkin's performance photographs have won the €25,000 Sovereign Art Prize". The Telegraph
  21. ^ "Exhibition: Mouths At The Invisible Event". The Mosaic Rooms
  22. ^ "An Exhibition Brings Us Face to Face with the War on Terror". 20 February 2015. Hyperallergic
  23. ^ "Nathaniel Mellors: Ourhouse". ICA, London