The 21st-Century’s Answer to Pop Art: Claudia Bitran

Even before our meeting with Claudia Bitran, I was extremely excited about her work and eager to hear her elaborate on her ideas and practice. Bitran, a multimedia artist working with painting, animation, installation and video, primarily makes work dealing with popular culture and how she and the general public consumes it. While she isn’t the first to bridge the gap between high-brow and low-brow art, with Andy Warhol and the Pop Art movement bringing popular culture into a fine art context, I think Bitran’s work is a natural progression from her precursors and she has a lot to say about the increasingly escalated, virulent relationship between our culture and celebrity worship that Warhol hinted at decades ago. 

Dramatic Holidays, 2009, 500 paintings of a road trip, oil on canvas on wood

Soon after this massive painting project, Claudia auditioned to be a Britney Spears impersonator on a reality TV show out of her earnest love for the star, at the time not really considering this to be part of her larger artistic practice. I found this extremely fascinating and to be a completely unexpected background for a fine artist, but meeting with Bitran, she does exude a lot of energy and a star-like quality, so it does actually make sense. I also really appreciate her earnest love for popular culture, whereas a lot of art about popular culture seems to hide behind a layer of irony and detachment. Bitran isn’t blind to the problems of popular culture and celebrity worship and definitely includes these critiques in her work, but like her I think there is a lot of joy and value to be extracted from popular culture and mainstream media. For example, there’s a lot of pushback on pop music such as Britney Spears’ for being “manufactured”, and while some of these critiques may have bits of truth to them, this doesn’t cancel the fact that people can find joy and solace in it, and that there is a real living person creating these works. Claudia actually later incorporated Britney into her artistic practice when she went to RISD, recreating Spear’s music videos with cardboard shoe box sets and inserting videos of herself dancing Britney’s choreographs, perhaps in part commenting on the star’s autonomy that was constantly breached by the media.

Bitran impersonating Spears on reality TV

Bitran very recently revisited this idea of women’s autonomy being infringed upon by media and society in her newest works, creating animations of women being filmed while drunk and at times, near-death from alcohol poisoning. She’s removing these videos from their original context, in which they were likely posted on social media as humorous, and forcing the viewer to examine our relationship with these videos and see the disturbing underside of them in which these young women are being harmed as we passively watch. She also talked about her ambitious project to recreate every scene from the Titanic but with set rules, such as using different mediums and actors for each scene, and not spending money. While she hasn’t finished this project yet, everything I’ve seen so far is extremely inventive and brings out touching and human themes that may have been glossed over in the big-budget movie. In all, talking with Bitran has genuinely inspired me in terms of art-making and general philosophies about life, and I’m super excited to keep track of her future works. 

Frenzy, 2020.