Diana Thater (born 1962), a video artist of the younger generation, lives and works in Los Angeles. Since 1991 she has attracted attention with her installations, among others, in solo exhibitions with Witte de With and David Zwirner. Diana Thater has made her mark on the international scene with China, shown in the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago and in Le Creux de l’Enfer, Thiers (1995), as well as through participation in important group exhibitions such as the 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996), the Munster Sculpture Project (1997) and the travelling exhibition Sunshine & Noir: Art in L.A. 1960-1997. In Switzerland, she garnered recognition through the 1996 exhibition of her work in the Kunsthalle Basel. Her name is associated with room-sized, profusely colorful and luminous projections which – as with her exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998) – carry visitors off into Alice’s Wonderland.
Nevertheless, it is wrong to say that Diana Thater’s works suggest the illusion of another world, as film conventionally strives to achieve. The reality of the technical aspects and craftsmanship is combined with the narrative fiction of the images on film. By exposing the process of creation, the reflexive content of the work is always present. It is Thater’s trademark to leave the architectural space in its original state and let all the technical equipment stand undisguised in the room, thereby disclosing the means of illusionistic production. On one hand, the architecture undergoes the illusion of another world via the moving pictures projected diagonally across the space; on the other, the illusion is again dispelled by the content of the projections.
With her most recent work, Delphine, first shown at the Wiener Secession (2000), visitors imagine themselves in a world underwater. Four films projected onto the walls show swimming dolphins – with the viewer taking the position of the diver behind the camera. Two walls of video monitors positioned on the floor of the room show the sun, one taken from space with the aid of NASA telescopes and the other from the perspective of the ocean dwellers and the diver. It is the interplay of the viewer and the viewed, of subject and object, which Diana Thater repeatedly tackles, and always on multiple levels. The visitor is thus both subject – as the viewer – and object, by participating in the formation of the installation for the moment he or she is present. Depending on where one stands in the exhibition space and in relation to the monitors, the piece can be experienced from a number of different viewpoints.
Delphine is a variation on a theme Thater has continued to take up and develop: Nature, especially wild animals. With China, she carried the exploration of reality and fiction to extremes, getting wild but trained wolfs to imitate human behavior. By contrast, with the dolphins living freely in the wild, she had to totally depend on their willingness to cooperate. With the choice of the animals, Thater is deliberately placing importance on examining the myths of our civilization. As the artist herself says about her work: “When we talk about nature, we are talking about ourselves really. Nature is a screen where we project ourselves. Nature is the ultimate other.”
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About the artist
For over two and a half decades, Diana Thater has explored the precarious relationship between culture and nature in her new media practice. Frequently using animals and natural phenomena as subjects, her precisely choreographed video installations immerse the viewer in ambient environments…Learn more