The centerpiece of the debut exhibition of Althea Thauberger, a young Canadian artist, is a 20-minute DVD of eight young men in casual contemporary dress whose carefully choreographed actions convey the virtuous themes, austerity and comical earnestness of a history painting brought to life. Free of dialogue and punctuated with title cards explaining the action, it tells an ennobling, abstract tale of entrapment, unity, deprivation, division and uneasy resolution in the face, it seems, of a common foe.
The drama unfolds on a large, two-level scaffolding that rattles appropriately, implying the din of battle as the young men charge about, strike overwrought poses and mirror the narrative. It is ”The Oath of the Horatii” meets ”West Side Story.”
It helps you get the point that the scaffolding is surrounded by the white, appropriately neo-Classical columns and arches of a 19th-century building in Berlin (a former hospital that is now an art space). The final twist, as implied by the title, is that the young men have opted to avoid traditional paths of glory: They are contributing nine months of social service in lieu of nine months of military service, and their participation in Ms. Thauberger’s piece is part of that service.
The work is overly cerebral, but it makes most of its points on its own and has the added charm of resembling an early dance or film by Yvonne Rainer forced through the sieve of academy painting around 1805.
Reposted from: NY Times