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About stephanie

Baltimore City

Stephanie Barber is a multimedia artist best known for her poetic and philosophical films, videos and writing. James Glisson at Artforum wrote "the films of Stephanie Barber engage universal themes; time, death, memory, forgetting, frustration." Max Goldberg at Cinema Scope Magazine wrote"… “intentional interaction with uncertainty”—Barber’s art in a nutshell. DAREDEVILS is her most elegant articulation yet of a self-conscious style alive to ideas and emotions, one through the other. As ever, the... more

Nature as a Metaphor for Economic, Emotional and Existential Horror 2018

Nature As A Metaphor For Economic, Emotional And Existential Horror, was a solo exhibition at Capsule Gallery NYC between Oct. 4th and Nov. 16, 2018.

A collection of photographs and language compose an expanded text piece that considers human’s press against (or alienation from?) the natural world,

An installation utilizing words as sculptural elements to contemplate the morphological state of language and nature, the installation consisted of a series of large format photo prints with texts created by hand pressed dry transfer letters; sculpturally constructed frames with inlaid shelves for smaller photo prints with further texts; a vending machine with 300 sentences about the nature of economic, emotional and existential horror and 3 viewfinder essays with images and text.

The show is a hybridized essay using photography and text to investigate our understanding of nature as human context.

In The Jungle 2017

A feature length narrative written and directed by Stephanie Barber in 2017.

The musical essay film In The Jungle is an hour long, single channel video written and directed by Stephanie Barber, starring Cricket Arrison (of Wham City) and M.C. Schmidt (of Matmos) as well as a spate of snakes and tigers.

A piece of expanded poetics which combines written and spoken text with music composed with the found and created sounds of birds and insects. The collision of human civilization and wildlife is both a contemplation of extinction and environmentalism as well as a metaphor for the wild in our psyches and imagination.

Leo Goldsmith at The Village Voice wrote "...Barber’s overabundance of language and logos — her insistence on the artificiality and constructedness of the Scientist’s natural environs — positions the jungle as a space of subconscious play rather than a lost paradise. To return to the jungle — to wrap herself, as the Scientist does, in her serpentine sleeping bag and become a snake with her “snake friends” — is about generating a space of comfort and self-care: a habitat."

In The Jungle works in the porous spaces between theater and cinema; essay and fiction; music and poetry. The composite nature of the video extends my exploration of hybridization and multidisciplinary text work in the field of expanded poetics.

In The Jungle, playfully and sorrowfully tells the tale of an unreliable narrator in a self-imposed exile. Given a grant to study the equivalent of animal cries and whines in jungle flora our heroine has lived for 1, 612 days deep in an unnamed jungle. The piece opens with a musical journal entry through which we discover that she must return to "civilization" to deliver a lecture on her discoveries to the board which funds her work. The typewriter on which she impresses her thoughts about this upcoming journey is turned into a melodic instrument and accompanied by an antique toy piano and Berg-like vocal punctuations so that the entirety feels like a circuit bent atonal opera. What becomes clear is an encroaching madness and reluctance to leave the sheer terror of thousands of square miles of rapid life and growth.

The sets are composed of video images of jungles collaged and projected through and onto the sculptural structures of trees and vines and mosses. The sets so clearly avoiding naturalism call into question our heroine's sense of reality; in this way the form of the piece suggests the unreliable nature of the character and her situation.

The jungle serves as an extended metaphor for excessive and continual growth and death and fear and sustenance; a metaphorical space of chaos in which the scientist finds solace and which stands in contrast to the human jungle of "civilization" to which the scientist must return.

A lecture on the epiphytic and resiniferous vegetation of the jungle is then delivered. Or rather, it is skillfully, strangely and poetically side-stepped and whipped into an emotional, philosophical frenzy. The lecture folds a poetic narrative into a roving philosophical inquiry and botanical primer.

The scientist then returns to the jungle just in time to listen to her favorite radio show which provides the courage and fortification of a direct god line to the jungle floor through a mellifluous dj and prescient pop songs.

Mostly she is terrified and interested in being terrified; thinking of all the implications of fear and understanding...the way these two ideas are constantly referenced, metaphorically, in the flora she set out to study.

3 peonies 2017

3 peonies is a brief, poetic 16mm film on a simple sculptural action.

What becomes apparent is the humor possible in material interactions and the tender and sometimes melodramatic symbolism of cut flowers. What begins as a reverence for natural beauty ends up pointing towards the abstract expressionism and color field work of high modernism which, in many cases eschewed the banality of such ‘natural’ beauty. The collaged soundtrack suggests weightier concerns, gently insistent behind the flatness of the utilitarian sounds of ripping tape.

While the last 7 years I have been creating feature films and book length writing, expanding my notions of time, short, experimental, poetic film and video work has been a mainstay of my artistic practice and I have and will continue to create these more condensed pieces throughout my life.

Has screened at Media City Film Festival, Windsor/Detroit 2018; Image Contre Nature 18, Marseille, France 2018; European Media Arts Festival Osnabrück, Germany 2018; IndieLisboa, Portugal 2018; Cue Mark Lubov Gallery, NYC 2017; Antimatter Film Festival, Victoria BC 2017 among others.

Critic Michael Sicinski wrote "The film consists of a three-minute action, but Barber's framing and use of contrapuntal sound (together with the repetitive rip of the tape) organizes this performative gesture into a fully cinematic object, one with a full painterly palette. This is a tough, smart little film."

All The People 2015

Published by Ink Press Productions in June 2015, All The People is a collection of 43 very short stories.

The stories which sit carefully between poetry and story. Like much of my work, these stories are interested in the upsetting of genre and media as an element of the project. All The People wants to be a book of photographs, wants to be a treatise on need.

Laura van den Berg at Entropy Magazine wrote "All the People is a work that resists easy categorization, and certainly Barber is stretching and complicating the form of the micro-story or the flash fiction or whatever we want to call it here; she is capturing that form and making it wholly her own. I could try out comparisons—Deb Olin Unferth meets Lydia Davis, say—but Stephanie Barber continues to prove herself as a true original."

Horizon 2014

Horizon is a short experimental video. The piece is a poetic collage of 16mm home movie footage from Egypt in the 1950s, elements of Capra's "Lost Horizon" soundtrack and a small and frustrated boy.

The 16mm footage was shot by a wealthy American couple on their 3 year, around the world honeymoon trip. My mother was their maid for 25 years until they passed away recently and I received all of the film footage. I constructed this collage which contemplates the concept of utopia and holds a critique of the American class system and the way it is visible through markers such as language usage.

While the last 7 years I have been creating feature films and expanding my notions of cinematic time, short, experimental, poetic film and video work has been a mainstay of my artistic practice and I have and will continue to create these more condensed pieces throughout my life.

Horizon has screened at The New York Film Festival; The Edinburgh Film Festival; KLEX, Kuala Lampur; Fronteira Festiva, Brazil; Manchester Film Festival and others.


DAREDEVILS, written and directed by Stephanie Barber
HD 85minutes
This feature film premiered October, 2013 at New York Film Festival's Views from the Avant-Garde.

A portrait of risk and language, the experimental narrative DAREDEVILS, presents a writer as she interviews a well-known artist and feels the reverberations of their discussion throughout her day. Visually spare, still and verbose, the video considers three formal handlings of language—a dialog, two monologues and a song.

Starring KimSu Theiler, Flora Coker & Adam Robinson and featuring the voices of Susan Howe and Jenny Graf, DAREDEVILS constructs a metaphor of an artist’s life and work as daredevilry.

The piece sits gently between video art, narrative and poetic essay. The classic rising action, climax and denouement are sculpted, not by cause and effect, but by the subtle movements to and from understanding that are inherent in conversation. Bubbles of intimacy are blown and popped, begin to be blown again.


Night Moves 2013

Night Moves is a conceptual book of poetry published by Publishing Genius Press in 2013

The book is a collection of thoughts and conversations about Bob Seger's classic song of the same name, all culled from YouTube.

Poignant, disturbing and incisive, the collection deepens and takes on a cultural significance beyond the initial artistic impetus. A collaboration is created—twisting through the nostalgia for youth and the collective ownership of pop music, the book becomes a moving document of how strangers communicate about art, and what the song and the sentiment of the song means to different people.

Carl Wilson at Slate Magazine wrote "It’s in these alternations between poignancy and repugnance, the tender and the foul-mouthed, the clichés and the arresting confessions, separated by bubbles of white space, that Barber discovers the poetry of the comment section. Her gesture here goes back, of course, to Marcel Duchamp and all the conceptual art since that has been produced by putting a frame around a found object. (She often collages found images into her video work as well.)" about Night Moves.

Blake Butler at Vice Magazine wrote "The anonymous and wide-open freedom, when orchestrated under independent Baltimore filmmaker Stephanie Barber’s eye, quickly culminates into a narrative built from sentimental dedications, troll-bait insults, wistful old folks angry over how music has changed, defensive teens, lurkers, hornballs, the incredulous, the sincere, and a whole other range of personalities that would only intersect with one another online."

jhana and the rats of james olds or 31 days/31 videos 2011

jhana and the rats of james olds or 31 days/31 videos
Between June 25th-Aug. 7th 2011 Stephanie Barber moved her studio into the Baltimore Museum of Art where she created a new video each day in a central gallery open to museum visitors.

Jhana is a meditative state and James Olds is the protoneuroscientist who discovered the pleasure or reward center of the human brain by doing experiments on rats.

The goal of this project, entitled jhana and the rats of james olds or 31 days/31 videos, was to create a series of short, poetic videos in the playful and serious footprints of Oulipo games and daily meditations; creating one new video each day. The exhibit was both a constantly changing installation as well as a collaborative performance in which museum visitors were present as spectator and often creative partner. Each of these videos was created on one of the exhibition days.

"I am thinking about the emphasis given to product over production, or display over creation. The piece is a video screening and an installation and a performance; a spiritual obeisance, an athletic braggadocio, a consideration of marxist theories of production (with the assembly line so lovingly lit). It is a funny game for me to play, an exercise in concentration, discipline and focus, an extension of my everyday. It is a greedy desire to squeeze a massive amount of work out of myself; a dare; a show I would like to see myself. It is like the back story before the story, an inversion of the way we usually experience art work. A moving from the inside out.

I was thinking how the interiors of museums are really only able to share what is almost the exterior of a piece of art work, and though this colliding of the interior and exterior is fuzzy, a step towards the interior of any art piece might be the making of that piece. I'm interested in the tedious and repetitive qualities of meditation and art work, the difference and similarities in these two practices. The practice and work of these practices??the dispelling of the so-seductive myth of artist as creating through a vague and florid explosion of inspiration??or perhaps interested in romanticizing the effort and challenging technical, logistical, practical elements of creation. The tedious as IT. Or one of the ITs. Like all pieces of art, this project is accordion in its intentions, shrinking and expanding upon use." Stephanie Barber

Press on jhana and the rats of james olds can be found here:

  • (small piece of) I LOVE YOU

    This is a short excerpt from a 50 minute film in which 689 people say "I Love You" one after another. All the people in the piece were passing through the exhibit and agreed to be in this piece.
  • jhana and the rats of james olds written about at The National Poetry Foundation blog Harriet

    jhana and the rats of james olds written about at The National Poetry Foundation blog Harriet
  • miniatures

    Stephanie Barber | U.S. | 2011 | 2m color | sound | DV from Jhana and the Rats of James Olds A series of sentences read by museum visitors inspired by, and paired with, a number of miniature Elizabethan portraits. Words and paintings??each seem equally able and unable to represent a life. The man who reads the line ?I think constantly about my coming demise? came through the exhibition several times and participated in a few different pieces. He is big, young, strong and confident. I had him read the line many times before he got it just right.
  • still from The Badger and The Hare

    A musical telling of an old chinese myth. Made in collaboration with Smelling Salt Amusements.

razor's edge 2010

razor's edge by Stephanie Barber and Xavier Leplae
35mm 2010

razor's edge is a 35mm feature film by Stephanie Barber and Xavier Leplae completed in 2010. The film is a remake of the Somerset Maugham novel The Razor's Edge written, created and performed by Stephanie Barber and Wisconsin Artist Xav Leplae. The entire piece is shot in Baltimore, in the alleys and barber shops, sno-cone shacks, abandoned buildings and mall-like harbor. The film premiered at The New York Film Festival's Views from the Avant-Garde in 2010.

One friend tells another friend what she remembers from reading the Somerset Maugham novel The Razors Edge 10 or 15 years ago. It is a sketchy and slanted remembering. They decide to shoot a film of this memory, a foggy tale with scant connection to the original but feeling the patronage of that text. Being artists and tricksters they do it as a game, all in one week, with donated short ends and gestural implications to narrative. What they really do is visit after years of not visiting. Endless talks about the state of the planet and our access to knowledge--power or ineptitude of art. All this talking and the film turns out with almost no dialog, sweeps through the city of Baltimore which is often destitute, tropical and friendly.

This film was shot in Baltimore, MD and processed and edited in Mumbai, India. It premiered at the 2010 New York Film Festival and has screened since then in numerous festivals and museums. The piece is distributed by

Max Goldberg at the San Francisco Cinematheque wrote "The spine of razor’s edge is a gliding series of lyrical panoramas of narrow houses. It’s a familiar vantage, but the filmmakers stick with it for long enough to register the varying signs of activity and desertion, beauty and poverty, the weeds and kiddie pools and clotheslines and fences evoking a jungle’s density. At times the deep shadows of the buildings throw the camera into darkness, and it is difficult to tell whether it is day or night. I find razor’s edgealternating currents intriguing, though the film’s cryptic tactics will doubtlessly alienate some viewers. Learning that it was made with the faint memory of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge in mind won’t clear anything up, but those willing to suspend expectations may find that Barber and Leplae have reconstituted urban space a playground. Instead of plugging gaps with pop music, they sing to themselves."

dwarfs the sea 2009

dwarfs the sea 2009

dwarfs the sea is an experimental video composed of a series of found photographs and imagined texts written about the subjects of the video.

Small biographies and musing generalizations--men's relations to each other and their lives. There is hope and loneliness, companionship and isolation and the simplest of filmic elements to contrast the complexity of human emotions. The delicacy of the formalist writing moves the listener from intimacy to universalism and back again, swaying gently to and fro like the rocking of a ship.

James Glisson, at ArtForum wrote "In dwarfs the sea, black-and-white photographs of crew members appear and the digital narrator gives snippets of their lives: “Oh him, he had problems sleeping,” or, regarding a ship’s navigator, “Barely awake, he would begin an internal dialogue of failure.” Holding saccharine melodrama at bay, the affectless and antiseptic tone paradoxically grants each photograph and story a tinge of emotional identification."

A small bit of this piece can be viewed at VDB:

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stephanie's Curated Collection

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