Diana Thater : on location = Diana Thater : über den Ort

Lynne Cooke, Wilma Parker
Di änä Thater: On Location w wo£ a £/igory aw "Academic" is the term that has been attached by critics to Diana Thater's complex five-site installation collectively titled THE BEST ANIMALS ARE THE FLAT ANIMALS-THE BEST SPACE IS THE DEEP SPACE. Far from an epithet of unalloyed approbation, it signals that the incisive conceptual component that informs all her work has been foregrounded more inexorably in this multipartite work than hitherto. What she herself defines as "art in the service of
more » ... ght," art galvanized by "the pleasure of critical thought," is fundamental to her practice: "Thinking is as relevant to art as making" she contends, referencing a position that increasingly has come to be regarded as controversial. Her last two exhibition catalogues have included essays she authored alongside texts by other contributors." Very different from the indices, or the supplements-those shards of hypothetical narrative that she had earlier published-or the screenplay fïfecln'c Mind, these are polemics in which she not only expounds her aesthetic and expiates on the particular project that the catalogue records but sharply castigates a species of complacent, jejeune, and unquestioning work that, she contends, too L yiViVis COOüC£ is a curator at the Dia Center for the Arts in New York City and also writes on contemporary art. atTifzYy... Wittgenstein, Tfarfatus /ogico-pAi/oso/7Aicns, 4.112 often currently passes for "new art." Thater's formidable critical intelligence and well-grounded theoretical stance are matched by a rare fearlessness when articulating her position that for some unquestionably proves intimidating. "Academic" thus provides a neat escape clause: While paying lip-service to such issues it short-circuits extended debate. Specifically devised to elude facile comprehension and neat closure-if not the premature foreclosure epitomized in such cursory reviewing-THE BEST ANIMALS... challenges in other ways too. The most complex, and, arguably, the most ambitious work that Thater has undertaken to date, its corpus is comprised of some twenty-seven separate elements. Eight individual works were composed from different groupings of these parts. All eight include footage shot in both film and video and made for projection as well as monitors. Sometimes the footage is slowed, at other times it has been speeded up. Their scale ranges from a full wall projection to the dimensions of a small monitor: An intermediary size is given by a free-standing screen that resembles a theater flat. The three principal motifs were filmed and videotaped in three separate locations. The Hedrick Exotic Animal Farm in Nickerson, Kansas, provided material for images of a herd of zebra shot in close- 177 PARKETT 56 1999
doi:10.5169/seals-681131 fatcat:3aqynxlj4bdm7bmvx2lgd6q6dy