Althea Thauberger

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Althea Thauberger

Lisa Baldissera
Sobey Art Award Publication | Halifax: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia | 2004

Althea Thauberger’s work examines self-expression and individualism in contemporary culture, particularly in relation to adolescents and young adults. By placing the diverse subjectivities of her collaborators within one context, Thauberger creates the potential of meeting points where individuals may undergo a sociological, cultural or psychological transformation. Thauberger’s projects provide a container in which to examine the desires of the participants—the need for communication and visibility set against the paradigms of popular media conventions—in order to arrive at a language of individual expression. Thauberger exhibits her projects primarily within art gallery spaces, where tension arises between criticality and art historical discourse, and the “untutored” audience/collaborators.

One of the artists’ first collaborative works was Dream Factory (2001). Thauberger placed an advertisement calling for local talent in a Victoria weekly newspaper; and, from the submissions, selected a group of performers through an auditioning process. Using a 1970s style network TV variety show format, the performances were presented and televised in situ, in one evening at Open Space Gallery in Victoria, Canada. The performers naturally utilized recognizable paradigms of entertainment and popular culture; Dream Factory became a personalized pastiche of performance works and identities, as the acts alternated between professional and amateur, original and derivative, surprising and entirely predictable. Placed within the formality of a gallery, and removed from familiar contexts—television, the high school play, the family living room, the community theater—the works shimmied between a celebration and critique of the aesthetics and styles of the performative gesture.

For a recent project, Thauberger organized a call to community arts groups, teen program coordinators and list serves, appealing to young women with music and writing backgrounds to participate in a film project. After interviewing 30 teenagers, Thauberger selected four young women who, along with Thauberger and Robert Massey, a Washington DC based composer, developed libretto, music, staging and set design for the a four part opera work, titled A Memory Lasts Forever (2004). The piece continues Thauberger’s exploration of the intersection of popular media and the self-generated narrative.

Thauberger has steadily built upon this working model, creating a variety of collaborative works, from a billboard sized mural, co-designed with a 12 year old girl seeking to “raise her profile in the community” to large scale events with choral groups (Saidye Bronfman Centre, Montreal) and, for her participation in the 5th inSite San Diego/Tijuana, in 2005, an event which critically examines the political, social and cultural intersections along the Mexican and American border, a work involving military families on a San Diego army base. Recent exhibitions also include From Baja to Vancouver, Art Forum Berlin, and Bambi, at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art.