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Artist Diana Thater discusses her interest in improving the lives of both humans and animals through art and activism. Speaking from the site of the former Los Angeles Zoo, Thater describes her activism as being focused on “anti-captivity.” As an activist she has worked with Ric O’Barry and the Dolphin Project to bring attention to the sale and slaughter of dolphins in Japan’s Taiji cove.
Thater’s multi-channel video installation Delphine (1999) is shown in the artist’s solo exhibition, The Sympathetic Imagination, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year. In the work “you can see a dolphin spinning underwater and you can almost feel it.” Thater hopes Delphine generates a sympathetic response from the viewer and creates a new way to communicate between species. “My life as an artist is a different one,” says Thater. “The politics are much more subtle.”
More information and credits
Producer: Véronique Bernard & Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Deborah Dickson. Editor: Morgan Riles. Camera: Scott Anger. Sound: Theresa Radka. Artwork Courtesy: Diana Thater. “Welcome to Taiji” Courtesy: Ric O’Barry, One Voice & Diana Thater. Special Thanks: City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks & Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Art21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.
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Diana Thater makes video installations that poetically grapple with threats to the natural world, from the extinction of species to long-lasting environmental disasters such as the nuclear fallout of Chernobyl. Many of the artist’s works take the space where people and animals meet as their subject, exploring the experiences of wild gorillas in a Cameroon park, a wolf trained to work in Hollywood films, a monkey-inhabited temple in India, and zebras at an exotic animal farm. Adopting cyclical time signatures and extended durations, Thater’s ambient works are abstractions of time which diverge from the linear narratives humans use to make sense of themselves and the cosmos.
“I would like for humans to recognize that they belong to a complicated and complex ecosystem that includes all kinds of other beings.”