A Runaway World
November 29, 2018–March 3, 2019
Diana Thater: A Runaway World traveled to the Guggenheim Bilbao from Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, where it featured five video installations, three of which were recent commissions (September 16, 2017–February 18, 2018). The works As Radical as Reality and A Runaway World came to Istanbul from The Mistake Room in Los Angeles, where they were first shown in 2017 (April 1–June 3). Curated by Manuel Cirauqui, the exhibition in Bilbao presented two works made in 2017: As Radical as Reality and A Runaway World.
The primary emphasis of Thater's work is the tension between the natural environment and mediated reality, and by extension, between tamed and wild, and science and magic. Filmed in Kenya and presented on intersecting screens designed by the artist, As Radical as Reality and A Runaway World explore the lives and habitats of two species that are close to extinction—rhinos and elephants—and the illicit economies that threaten their survival. As Radical as Reality follows Sudan, at the time the world's last living male northern white rhino, and the guards who protected him from poachers in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. A Runaway World portrays a herd of bull elephants and their habitat in Kenya's Chyulu Hills.
Thater's critically acclaimed retrospective The Sympathetic Imagination was presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2015. The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2016.
July 4–October 8, 2018
Large-scale works by the pioneering film, video, and installation artist Diana Thater inaugurated the ICA Watershed, a new satellite space of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) housed inside the 15,000-square-foot space of a former copper pipe factory in the East Boston Shipyard and Marina. The show was organized at the ICA by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with curatorial project manager Cara Kuball.
Thater’s immersive work filled the space, enveloping museumgoers. The exhibition began with the annual migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Michoacán, Mexico, in Untitled Videowall (Butterflies) (2008). Displayed on what the artist calls a "broken video wall" of six glowing screens on the floor of the exhibition space, this installation was conceived to place the viewer simultaneously both inside and outside the work. Thater’s multichannel video, sound, and light installation Delphine (1999) was reconfigured for the Watershed’s industrial interior to create an environment that unfolds across a corner, the floor, and multiple walls. Filmed using two handheld digital video cameras and two Super 8 cameras, Delphine explores the interaction of humans and wild dolphins in the Caribbean, an underwater world which is juxtaposed with an image of the sun captured by a NASA telescope. The exhibition also featured As Radical as Reality and A Runaway World (both 2017), recently shown at Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul and The Mistake Room in Los Angeles, who commissioned the work. Filmed in Kenya and presented on intersecting screens designed by the artist, these works explore the lives and habitats of two species that are close to extinction—rhinos and elephants—and the illicit economies that threaten their survival. Completing the show were three works from the artist’s Day for Night series (2013), in which layered footage of flowers and rain, shot using 16mm film with a "day for night" filter to simulate evening during the day, are presented on separate nine-monitor video walls.
Collectively, the works on view in the Watershed reflected a primary emphasis of Thater’s practice: the tension between the natural environment and mediated reality, and, by extension, between the tamed and the wild, science and magic. Explaining the museum’s choice, ICA director Jill Medvedow told the Boston Globe, "We selected Diana Thater for the inaugural installation because her focus on the fragility of the natural world seemed a perfect fit for this new waterfront location and because we’ve seen her ability to transform unconventional spaces through her strategies of intensified color and visually stunning moving images."
In November 2018, A Runaway World will be presented at the Guggenheim Bilbao, where it will be curated by Manuel Cirauqui. This year’s major institutional presentations of Thater’s work in Europe and America follow Diana Thater: The Sympathetic Imagination, a midcareer retrospective organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2015, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2016.
Image: Installation View, Diana Thater, the ICA Watershed, 2018. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Liza Voll. Photography © Diana Thater.