gorillagorillagorilla: Diana Thater

gorillagorillagorilla: Diana Thater

Kunsthaus Graz

Diana Thater
(production still)

January 27, 2009

Diana Thater

January 31 – May 17, 2009

Opening: Friday, January 30, 2009, 7pm

Curated by Adam Budak and Peter Pakesch

Lendkai 1, A–8020 Graz
info [​at​] kunsthausgraz.at
Tue – Sun 10am-6pm



Premiered in the Kunsthaus Graz and realized in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History in London to celebrate the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, the new work gorillagorillagorilla by Californian artist Diana Thater is a study of human and animal behavior and the artist’s further investigation of the medium of video as an image production tool, capable of creating impressive spatial and visual environments.

“I create sculptures with images of nature in space” Diana Thater confesses while describing her monumental video installations that analyze complexities of the natural world and their relationship with the human being. The title of her exhibition gorillagorillagorilla refers to the trinomial name for Western Lowland Gorillas (genus: species: subspecies) that the artist filmed last year at the primate rescue centre in Mefou National Park, Cameroon. gorillagorillagorilla is an impressive conceptual and ambient visual arrangement which consists of 10 video projectors, two video walls, 12 DVD players, light color filters and existing architecture. Images of nature, projected on various irregular surfaces of Kunsthaus Graz Space01, and complemented by mainly forest green and golden yellow lights, creating an uncanny swirling shape that attempts to reconstruct the wilderness of Cameroon’s rainforests and the movements of animals. Spread between the walls, the ceiling and the floor, and filling up the air in-between with its dense volume, the image composition is complex and autonomous: it does not follow the interior’s contours, it is not round, but instead, it curves in sequences into the room, then curves back and up the walls, then jumps again over the ceiling.

Diana Thater considers her artistic method and the primary medium of installation as a relational act which polyphonically choreographs various elements thus leading towards producing multidimensional qualities of space and time: “If installation is an art of real space and time that puts sculpture and architecture in dialogue with one another, then I’m interested in making the space between them visible through the intervention of moving images and the time they exist in volumetric through color.” Staged in the biomorphic space of Kunsthaus Graz, gorillagorillagorilla is a particular “orchestra of space”, conducted with a unique “grace” by the artist whose most crucial concerns include the mechanism of perception and the ways people look and see. For Thater, “Art changes the world by changing the way you see.” Her entire oeuvre is an uncompromising effort to transform perception by experimenting with the notions of space and time.

Thater’s work deals with the politics of human – inhuman relationships and with the production of subjectivities in a passage between man and animal. The artist researches the zones of proximity between the human and animal worlds and is concerned with the mutability of subjectivities. The artist merges the fictive space of cinematic images and the physical space of the viewer, thus disorienting the viewer’s position and his/her identity. The viewer views and simultaneously is viewed, being invited to dive into a fluid spatial and temporal environment. Thater enjoys the dynamics of zooming in and out, employing the extreme proximity of objects and reducing the distance, testing the gaze and placing the viewer in an ambiguous state of awe and pleasure, between intimacy and a sense of estrangement.

Thater explores the liminal states of the grammar of being and becoming. Concentrated almost obsessively on nature and the natural, the artist defines the paradigm of the Other: “When we talk about nature, we are talking about ourselves really. Nature is the screen onto which we project ourselves. Nature is the ultimate Other.” In her oeuvre, belonging and assimilation are agents of blurred borders and they demarcate the transformational processes on both, conceptual and narrative levels: “I’m interested in the layering of identities on top of each other and in exchanges of identity…” Belonging is a self-referential device in rethinking the world and orienting our place in it. Which world do I belong to? What world do I inhabit? – Thater’s characters – coming from a variety of fictive sources, be it literary, cinematic, or scientific – often ask, while performing their sense of belonging in or outside the evolution theory which in itself offers but only one version of the politics of belonging.

Born in 1962 in San Francisco (US), Diana Thater lives and works in Los Angeles (US). She graduated from New York University and Art Center College of Design (MFA), where she is currently a member of the teaching faculty. A devoted activist for the environment and wildlife, Thater has been the artist-in-residence since 2000 for The Dolphin Project, a non-profit organization that protects cetaceans from slaughter, captivity, and abuse. Her recent solo exhibitions include Diana Thater. Here is a text about the world, David Zwirner, New York (US, 2008); Diana Thater. Keep the Faith. A Survey Exhibition, Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen (DE) and Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Siegen (DE, 2004); Transcendence is expansion and contraction at the same time, Haunch of Venison, London (UK, 2003); knots + surfaces, Dia Center for the Arts, New York (US, 2001); Delphine, Vienna Secession, Vienna (AT, 2000).

The exhibition Diana Thater. Gorillagorillagorilla is accompanied by a program of the following events:

Friday, January 30, 2009, 4pm, Space01:
Behind the scenes. Artist’s talk by Diana Thater, in English

Tuesday, February 3, 2009/7pm, Space04/Film screening
King Kong (1933, dir. by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009/7pm, Space04/Lecture
“I wonder what a Gorilla would say to this?” About Diana Thater and Charles Darwin
Bergit Arends, curator, Contemporary Arts Programme, Natural History Museum London

Tuesday, March 31, 2009/7pm, Space04/Film evening curated by Diana Thater
Feature film: White Dog (1982, dir. by Samuel Fuller)
Short films, 16 mm: Lemon and Carrots and Peas (1969, dir. by Hollis Frampton), Critical Mass (1971, dir. by Hollis Frampton), Gloria! (1979, dir. by Hollis Frampton), MGM and Shane (1975, dir. by Jack Goldstein)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009/7pm, Space04/Lecture
In the Contact Zone. Being Human, Becoming Animal
Elisabeth von Samsonow, sculptress and Professor of Philosophy and Historical Anthropology of Art, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Tuesday, April 28, 2009/7pm, Space 04/Film screening
A Zed & Two Noughts (1986, dir. by Peter Greenaway), Darwin (1992, dir. by Peter Greenaway)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009/7pm, Space04/Lecture/Film
Save the Gorillas to Save the World
Ian Redmond OBE, Ambassador for the UN International Year of the Gorilla
Documentary film: Titus. The Gorilla King

Tuesday, May 12, 2009/7pm, Space04/Lecture
I’m a Human Ape. Confessions of a Primates Researcher
Volker Sommer, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, University College, London

The catalogue published at the occasion of the exhibition includes introductory text by Peter Pakesch and essays by Adam Budak, Bergit Arends, Frans B. M. de Waal, Laurence A. Rickels, Giorgio Agamben and Jason Smith. The catalogue’s image part comprises both installation shots from the Kunsthaus Graz and a photographic essay by Diana Thater with an index “These Are Their Names” and a visual material taken during the filming of gorillagorillagorilla in Cameroon.

The installation gorillagorillagorilla has been co-produced by the Kunsthaus Graz and the Natural History Museum London.

Kunsthaus Graz am
Landesmuseum Joanneum

Lendkai 1, A–8020 Graz
T +43-316/8017-9200, F -9212


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Kunsthaus Graz
January 27, 2009

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