Kate Durbin

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What Is My Work About? 

My performance and web-based work deals with gender and digital media. I create work that explores the ways in which young women are utilizing contemporary forms such as the selfie and spaces such as the internet to negotiate their objectification in society. For example, one of my recent performance projects is Hello Selfie, which took place as a part of LA’s annual Perform Chinatown festival and also in collaboration with Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. Hello Selfie consists of a group of female-identifying performers covered in hello kitty stickers, taking selfies in a public space for several hours, while not speaking to the audience. The piece explores what I call the girl gaze–the girl looking back on herself, even as she is gazed at by others.


Artist Statement

My work deals with gender, digital media, and popular culture. I use digital mediums such as the selfies and online spaces such as tumblr in order to turn societal objectification of women on its head. In 2010 I created a tumblr project, Women as Objects, in order to archive the art of teen girls. This project, in addition to generating a lot of controversy, led to artists talks at Otis, Cal Arts, the West Hollywood Public Library, San Diego State University, Pratt, and for The School of Global Arts Down Under, and it was written about in .dpi, Hyperallergic, TMobile’s Your Digital Daily, Art in America, and Arcadia Missa. As a result of my research for the project, I coined the term the teen girl tumblr aesthetic for Hyperallergic, the online art magazine. The article about the teen girl tumblr aesthetic went viral, and was the 7th most popular article for that magazine that year.

My recent performance piece, Hello Selfie, was partly inspired by the teen girl tumblr aesthetic, and specifically, some backlash I received for the piece. One mysoginistic commenter responded to the article by saying, “Are you saying girls taking selfies is the cutting edge art form? Give me a break.” I responded with: “Yes.”

Hello Selfie took place initially as a part of LA’s annual performance art festival Perform Chinatown, and then I was invited to do it in collaboration with Transfer Gallery in NYC, with the performance taking place first in Union Square with my first solo exhibition following at the gallery after (I have not had an LA solo exhibition). The third iteration took place at Art Basel in Miami, first outside the fair, then on South Beach, also in collaboration with Transfer Gallery.

Hello Selfie consists of a group of female-identifying performers of various orientations, body shapes, and ethnic backgrounds, covered in hello kitty stickers, wearing Hanes underwear and colorful wigs, taking selfies for an hour straight in a public space. The selfies are uploaded to facebook and instagram in real time so the piece can be followed online as it unfolds (the piece happens both IRL and URL, as my public art projects seek to collapse the boundaries between these two spheres we now live in). The hello kitty stickers are a reference to global capitalism and the way women’s bodies are branded, and they are also a reference to childhood innocence lost. There is a sexual connotation as well, with hello kitty’s meaning shifting as she appears on adult bodies.

The performance deals with the very real risks of violence women experience both on and off line, and how these two types of violence are connected. The selfies are the women’s ways of taking back their own images and mitigating this violence. The women were instructed not to talk to the audience directly, so the audience was forced to confront their own ideas about the piece. Many people took selfies with the women or of themselves; others made disparaging remarks or engaged in inappropriate touching.

This piece harkens back to early public art performances I did in Los Angeles several years ago: one in specific is the The Pile of Panties, where I used crowd sourcing on facebook to call women from all over the world to send me their soiled underwear, which I piled on Sunset Boulevard near a women’s shelter and Agent Provocateur billboard. I then used surveillance to see what passersbys did with the underwear (most ignored it, one woman stole some of the panties). The piece dealt with the way women are objectified and thrown away in Hollywood, as well as the ways in which panties express the vulnerability of women, as panties are often fetish objects. This performance was a part of the Los Angeles Road Concerts.

I have published two books dealing with issues of women’s images in popular culture. The first is The Ravenous Audience (Akashic), which deals primarily with American archetypes such as Marilyn Monroe and Amelia Earhart, and E! Entertainment (Wonder), which is a transcription of reality shows about women and lifestyle themes, such as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and MTV’s The Hills.

I also have a collaborative iPad app and artist’s book—Abra—coming out with Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, with the help of an NEA grant. Abra is the name of the speaker of the text, a posthuman prophet, as well as the text itself. Abra is an endless living text, created by multiple authors, that the reader can add their own words to. Like my internet based work, Abra deals with collapsing the virtual and physical. The handmade artists’s book references early tablets and medieval handmade books, and has an opening in the back where the iPad fits. As the reader flips through the physical artist book they see apertures opening and the words on the iPad showing through. The app also operates as an independent experience.

For my next body of work, I plan to flip the script and perform Hello Selfie with men that I have found through the dating app Tinder. I am interested in the ways in which men’s selfies are viewed differently than women’s and in particular how the moniker “real men don’t take selfies” has been perpetuated. I’m also interested in how internet hook up culture has led to the objectification of men as well as women, and how these mediated interactions have both created greater connectivity and alienation between people. I imagine the piece to operate a bit like a flash mob, and I plan to take it to several different cities, beginning in the place where all of my work originates, my city and muse, Los Angeles.




University of California           Riverside, CA              September 2005-March 2008

M.F.A. in Creative Writing      Fiction

Biola University                       La Mirada, CA             August 2000-June 2004

B.A. in English


Solo Exhibitions

 “Hello Selfie NYC” Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn, NYC 2014


Performances and Web-Based Work

  • “E! Entertainment!” (Performance) MOCA Step and Repeat, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2014
  • “Hello Selfie” (Performance) Perform Chinatown, Los Angeles 2014
  • “Hello Selfie” (Performance) Transfer Gallery / Union Square, NYC 2014
  • “E! Entertainment” (Performance) Native Strategies, LACE, Hollywood 2014
  • “Stickerfication” (Performance) Made in LA / Hammer Museum, Los Angeles 2014
  • “Church of Art” (Collaborative Performance with Adam Overton), MOCA Geffen 2013
  • “E! Entertainment” (Performance), Enter Text, Los Angeles 2013
  • “Wives Shows” (Performance) Concord 2012
  • “Girls, Online” (Curator/Visual Art) for Bright Stupid Confetti, 2012
  • “Tumblr is the Only Place I Don’t Pretend I’m Okay” (Short Film), Showings at Echo Park Film Center, Totem Brooklyn, Trickhouse Live! Tuscon, Tenderloin 2012
  • “Women as Objects” (Performance/Curator) Tumblr Project 2012
  • Tumblr Project for Academy of American Poets (Performance/Curator) with Christian Bok, Kenneth Goldsmith, and others 2012
  • “Stigmatavision #3” (Performance/Video Art) Gaga Stigmata, 2012
  • “Bad Princesses” (Performance) West Hollywood Book Fair, Ocrober 2011
  • “NO PANTIES” (Sculpture) Chain Letter Show, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica CA, 2011
  • “Whatever! Clueless Edition” (Performance) with Jon Rutzmoser at Les Figues Press Auction Benefit Los Angeles 2011
  • “Prices Upon Request” (Photo Archive) curated by Christina Valentine with Zg Press, 2011
  • “Stigmatavision #2” (Performance/Video Art) Gaga Stigmata 2011
  • “Pardonmywhoremoans” (Performance) Bellyflop Gallery 2011
  • “Prices Upon Request” (Performance) Zg Press Benefit Yuki Sharoni Salon, Beverly Hills 2011
  • “Piles of Panties” (Performance) for Los Angeles Road Concerts, 2011
  • “Procession of Figues” (Performance/Fashion Show) at Les Figues Press Garden Party, 2011
  • “SEAM RIPPER: A Forum on Women Writers and Fashion” (Curator) Delirious Hem, Spring 2011
  • “NO BIKINI” (Performance/Photography) Delirious Hem, 2011
  • “Stigmatavision #1” (Performance/Video Art) Gaga Stigmata, 2011
  • “Explanation As Composition” (Collaborative Performance/Writing Project) LACE Gallery, Hollywood, 2011


Selected Artist Presentations and Lectures

  • Artist Lecture, UCSD, San Diego, CA 2014
  • Artist Lecture, Pratt, New York 2014
  • Artist Lecture, California Institute of the Arts 2014
  • Artist Lecture, Idlylwild Arts Academy 2014
  • Panel Speaker, Naropa, Colorado 2014
  • Symposium Speaker, University of Washington 2013
  • Hypersalon at Art Basel Miami Beach with Transfer Gallery 2014
  • Artist Lecture at Pacific Northwestern University 2013
  • Panel Speaker, &Now Conference 2013
  • Artist Lecture at Otis School of Art and Design 2012
  • Artist Lecture at West Hollywood Library 2012
  • Artist Lecture at Cal Arts 2012
  • Artist Lecture for School of Global Arts Down Under Melbourne, Australia 2012
  • “Tumblr is the Only Place I Don’t Pretend I’m Okay” screening at Enter>Text Concord Art Space Los Angeles 2012
  • “Tumblr is the Only Place I Don’t Pretend I’m Okay” screening at Poetry off the Page! in Tucscon 2012
  • Artist Lecture for California Institute of the Arts 2011


Selected Publications

  • Book Publications
    • “Abra” (1913 Press, Trade Paperback), forthcoming
    • “Abra” (Artist’s Book and iPad app), Center for Book and Paper Arts, forthcoming
    • “E! Entertainment” (Wonder), 2014
    • “The Ravenous Audience” (Poetry), Akashic Books, 2009, Selected by Chris Abani



  • Chapbook Publications
    • “Kept Women,” Insert Press, 2012
    • “E! (Entertainment),” Insert Press, 2011
    • “The Polished You” by Oodpress/Vanessa Place’s Factory Series, December 2010
    • “Fashionwhore,” Legacy Pictures, September 2010
    • “Fragments Found in a 1937 Aviator’s Boot,” Dancing Girl Press, 2009


Grants and Prizes

  • Expanded Artists Book Grant, Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago 2013
  • Best American Experimental Writing 2014
  • &Now Innovative Writing Award 2013
  • &Now Innovative Writing Award 2012
  • Finalist 1913 Poetry Prize 2012
  • Finalist Octopus Books Poetry Prize 2012
  • Finalist Les Figues Press Poetry Prize 2012
  • Finalist Coconut Books Poetry Prize 2012


Editorial Projects

  • Founding Editor, “Gaga Stigmata” (Art and Criticism About Pop Culture) 2010