Althea Thauberger


One to Watch

Catherine Krudy
Artkrush. Issue 56 | 2007

Dividing her time between Vancouver and Berlin, Canadian photographer and filmmaker Althea Thauberger documents the sometimes excruciating intersection of self and community. Thauberger’s art functions as a theatrical platform for what Diane Arbus described as “the gap between intention and effect” — the friction between the self-constructed personality and its social reception. Her videos record highly specific scenarios with sincere but often awkward performances, similar to Phil Collins’ karaoke-based dünya dinlemiyor and Johanna Billing’s youthful Magical World.

In two of the artist’s works, Songstress from 2002 and A Memory Lasts Forever from 2004, young female performers sing their own songs so wholeheartedly that they induce the viewer’s discomfort. Thauberger also solicits collaborators from various communities, further probing the schism between the individual and the whole. In 2005’s Northern, the artist worked with Canadian tree-planters to stage a tableau vivant of Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa; that same year, Murphy Canyon Choir captured military wives who lived on a base performing their own compositions.

At New York’s John Connelly Presents, Thauberger’s current solo exhibition, Zivildienst ≠ Kunstprojekt / Social Service ≠ Art Project, shows work she made while an artist-in-residence at Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien, an international studio center. Through an arrangement with the government, Thauberger worked for several months with a group of young German men performing community service as a substitute for military duty. The resulting video offers an austere performance of wordless gestures by the “protagonists” in an upbeat version of the Lord of the Flies dynamic, where games give way to factions before a reunification. Photographic portraits and self-authored fictional biographies complete the presentation of human complexity as observed through specific case studies.

Reposted from Artkrush