Diana Thater
Electric Mind and Recent Works

January 31 – March 13, 1998
Diana Thater

The exhibition Diane Thater: Electric Mind and Recent Works presents several video-based works by a young artist who has achieved notoriety for uniting the technology and techniques of the video format with the visual experience of nature. The exhibition was organized by the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon.

The cinematic layering and fracturing of views as recorded and edited by Thater parallels our inability to encompass completely our surrounding environment at any one time -- just as our optical views shift so do our emotional responses which reinforce, in this artist's mind, the notion that time is not linear, comprehension is multi-layered and nature cannot be conceived of as a single idea. Thater typically shoots her videos in gardens, parks, and animal preserves with an outlook that has on occasion been influenced by the Hudson River School painters, the Hollywood westerns of director John Ford, and 19th century Romantic writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Charlotte Bronte. Once the footage is edited and manipulated by means of color separation, time delay and multiple imaging, the works are either projected on the existing walls of the presentation space so as to surround the viewer, or are seen on individual monitors singly or grouped together.

Thater
Diana Thater, installation view,
photography: Creative Services,
University of Massachusetts
Electric Mind, 1996, Thater's most recent projector installation, is loosely based on a screenplay adaptation that she wrote of Rachel in Love, a science-fiction story by Pat Murphy that tells of a scientist dad who imprints the "electric mind" of his deceased daughter onto the brain of a chimpanzee. In Thater's screenplay awareness fluctuates between the chimp/girl and girl/chimp, another example of the artist's interest in transitional states both conceptual and emotional. The room-sized installation of Electric Mind shares themes and images from the story, but not the dramatic action: Footage of a chimpanzee undergoing his daily training session is bracketed by roadside views of the desert. The images are projected on two opposite walls and have been broken into three panels, though they intermittently merge into a single panorama. The technical apparatus -- projectors, laser disc players, monitors, cables and cords -- are always visible in Thater's installations so that the reality of the process of both making and experiencing the piece is acknowledged along with the viewer's illusionistic immersion in the moving projections.

The monitor pieces also alter time and space through Thater's varied editing techniques although the viewer's relationship to these works is obviously less viscerally inclusive. Among those on view, Pape's Pumpking, 1994, consists of two monitors that show the same scene, shot in the national Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, of a single male elk and two younger elk. Thater divides the tape into individual red/blue/green frames and then edits them together in that alternating color sequence. One monitor plays the piece in real time as a flickering black and white scene; the second slows the action by 25 percent revealing the color structure in flashes. In the three unique editions of Moluccan Cockatoo Molly, 1995, a trained bird is filmed as she performs a mating dance. The bird's ballet is exaggerated by Thater's video editing so the Molly is viewed as both singular and multiple, stable and static.

Diana Thater lives and works in Los Angeles and has had one-person exhibitions at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany (1997); the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (1996); the Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria (1996); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (1995) and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (1994). Thater has been the recipient of several awards in recognition of her work including a grant from Etant Donnes, The French-American Foundation for Contemporary Art (1995), and a National Endowment for the Arts Other Genres Fellowship (1993). She was also an Artist-in Residence at the Claude Monet Foundation, a grant administered through the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest International Artist Program (1991).

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