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Diana Thater - Biography

Diana Thater, M.F.A., is a groundbreaking film, video and installation artist. Diane also is an accomplished curator, writer and professor. She teaches an intensive summer seminar at The European Graduate School (EGS). Diana Thater, a native of San Francisco, was born in 1962. She has since relocated to Los Angeles where Diana currently lives and spends most of her professional time. Diane holds a B.A. from New York University in Art History which she obtained in 1984. She completed her M.F.A. in Pasadena, California at the Art Center College of Design, finishing it in 1990. It was in Pasadena in the same year as her graduation that Diane held her first solo exhibition entitled With/Out.

Diana Thater’s first solo show outside of art school took place in 1991 at the Dorothy Goldeen Gallery in Santa Monica in California. The show was called Dogs and Other Philosophers. Other solo shows since then have been held at David Zwirner, New York (1993, 1996) and 1301, Santa Monica, California (1993). Diana has shown work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (1997); MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) in New York City, in 1998 the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles; and the St. Louis Art Museum in Missouri, and finally the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1999).

Diana Thater’s video installations reveal the mechanical aspects of media representation, contemplating the relatoinships and intracacies of a technologically-mediated nature. She does this through an exploration of the relationships and ecosystems created with and with(out) human beings, animals and technology, stressing what she considers to be the almost impossible experience of a nature that is free of culture. Diana Thater’s research focuses on exploring of the complex relationship between the natural world and human beings. She is particularly interested in the differences between untouched and manipulated nature. It is clear from her work that she has a deep respect for the wild, but this is not to say she is embraces a worldview that believes both culture and nature do not shape each other. On the contrary it is the complicated relationship between culture and nature that drives her passionate explorations of the symbiotic relationship between (hu)(wo)man and nature.

Thater's overall frame of reference and influence is in panoramic landscape painting. For Thater film and video are not limited by linear narrative and abstraction exists within all representational moving images. She uses representational landscape imagery to create and play with such abstractions. Diana Thater is famous for exploring the temporal aspects of video and film in her work, while at the same time actually materializing it into space. She is most famous for her installations in which she uses spaces in such a way as to force the interaction with projected images and tinted light. One of Thater’s signature approaches is to make use of representational landscape imagery to create new abstractions. In a 2009 interview Diana Thater said:

The shape of the work and the installation of the work always has a direct relationship to the model or the image or the subject. […] The work is about the collaborative nature of all of these things.

In 2010, one of Diana Thater's recent video installation, Between Science and Magic, was a study of the dialectical kind we have come to expect from her. Not the dialectics of human and animal, nor the dialectics of culture and nature, but this time it is the dialectics of science and magic that she is exploring. The theoretical motivation for this piece comes from Claude Levi-Strauss's writing on science and magic. As Claude Levi-Strauss wrote, ''... art lies half-way between scientific knowledge and mythical or magical thought.''

The titles of her installations have often been praised. A fairly recent one is “drawling, stretching and fainting in coils.” She was asked in an interview how she came up with the titled and had the following response:

It is a great piece of text, isn’t it? It is part of the discussion between the Gryphon, the Mock Turtle and Alice. In this section the Mock Turtle refers to his studies in art. Instead of saying that he practiced “drawing and sketching and painting in oils,” he says “drawling and stretching and fainting in coils”. So clever, so lovely and such a beautiful title for an exhibition of artworks. It plays with language and image and misunderstanding but understanding just the same. In this passage they also refer to their studies of Latin and Greek as studies in “Laughing and Grief”. If I were to write an opera – that would be the title.

Diana Thater’s other solo shows in the past ten years include: Delphine, shown at the Kunstmuseum in Germany in 2010, at the Kulturkirche St. Stephani in Germany in 2009, and at The New Children’s Museum in San Diego in 2008. Also in 2010, Between Science and Magic, shown both at the David Zwirner in New York and at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. In 2009, Butterflies and Other People, shown at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Tigers and Other People, which was shown at the Towner Art Gallery in England (2009). Also in 2009, she exhibited Gorillagorillagorilla in Austria at the Kunsthaus Graz, which was a collaborative project with the Natural History Museum of London in 2008. Perfect Devotion, The best space is the deep space at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2007. Continuous. Contiguous. at the David Zwirner in New York (2005). Keep the Faith. A Survey Exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany (2004). Also in 2004, White is the Color at the 1301PE in Los Angeles. In 2003, Transcendence is expansion and contraction at the same time shown at the Haunch of Venison in London. Both in 2002, Bastard Pink at the Galleria Emi Fontana in Milan, Italy, and the simply-called Diana Thater at the Galerie Hussenot in Paris. knots + surfaces at the Dia Center for the Arts in New York (2001). The Caucus Race at the Galleria Emi Fontana in Milan, Italy (2000). The best sense is the nonsense shown at the Art Gallery of York University in Toronto Canada (1999).

Diana Thater’s artwork has been shown internationally in many of what are widely considered to be the greatest exhibit halls and exhibits. Some of her most acclaimed international solo shows include installations at Witte de With, Rotterdam (1994); Kunsthalle Basel (1996); and Kunstverein, Hamburg (1997). In 1998 Professor Thater was the recipient of the international artist in residence award of the ArtPace. Academy Award winner for best 2009 feature documentary “The Cove,” was based on the documentary “Welcome to Taiji,” which Diana Thater wrote together with Ric O'Barry and T. Kelly Mason.

She was one of the authors of a book about her exhibition of the same name Diana Thater: Gorillagorillagorilla (2009). Her work was the subject matter of the small book Diana Thater, Tigers and Other People Towner (2009). She was one of the contributors of the paperback volume in English and German entitled Parkett (2000). She is the editor of the book entitled Drawling, Stretching and Fainting in Coils 2008. She is the author of “Diana Thater 98.3” (1988). “China,” which is in English and in French, for the Centre d'art contemporain de Thiers (1996). In 1998, “The best animals are the flat animals, the best space is the deep space” written for the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles. In 2002, “Diana Thater: Knots + Surfaces” put in writing for the Dia Center for the Arts. In 2003, “Transcendence Is Expansion and Contraction at the Same Time” for which there was like for many of her writings an exhibition of the same name. “Dreamland” (2005).

As of October 2010, Diana Thater is taking part in a critically acclaimed international exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam called “Taking Lives.” Thater’s contribution is entitled “White is the Color,” which she had already shown a few years ago and this new rendition of it is there during the whole time of the show from August 28th 2010 to January 9th 2011.

Diana Thater was a professor of art at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where she taught an Intensive Summer Workshop.