While Thauberger’s practice defies strict definition by medium, she has produced remarkable films, videos, photographs, and performances over the course of her decade-long career. Driven by her interest in, and unique facility for, collaboration, the thread that connects her projects is her thoughtful engagement with groups of people – most often well-defined social enclaves – as her subjects. She works with these communities to develop performances that offer the participants opportunities for self-exploration and self-definition. The final works – whether videos or photographs – produced by Thauberger to record the collaborations, are always striking documents that entice, engage and surprise her viewers.
Thauberger’s project for The Power Plant is an experimental documentary/video installation about the staging of Peter Weiss’s 1963 play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital in Prague. Thauberger’s new work approaches issues of timely reassessment, institutionalization and shifting political terrain.
The original 1963 play imagines that the Marquis de Sade wrote and directed a play about the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat while the former was interned in the Charenton asylum in 1808, nineteen years after the beginning of the French Revolution and a time of massive institutional reform. This period saw beginnings of the reformation of the treatment of “mental illness” from punishment to “therapy.” In the 1963 play, the inmates enact the drama, and are always partly themselves, as “mental patients,” and partly in historical character. The play reveals an ongoing debate about whether the imperatives of revolution originate within the individual or within society as a whole.
While the original play is set in the bath house of the Charenton asylum, Thauberger’s production is set in the decommissioned laundry/water facilities of another post-revolutionary institution: Bohnice, the largest psychiatric clinic in the Czech Republic. Currently undergoing institutional reform, Bohnice is in the beginning stages of de-institutionalization and the final stages of privatization of some of its services. The production was a collaboration with the Prague-based experimental theatre company Akanda and theatrical director Melanie Rada in which play was presented to the patients and staff of Bohnice as well as general audiences who came to the hospital over a 5 night run. Thauberger’s THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF JEAN-PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE AS PERFORMED BY THE PRAGUE-BASED EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE COMPANY AKANDA FOR THE PATIENTS AND STAFF OF THE BOHNICE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL is a video work that documents and reconfigures the staging of the play in this location, to audiences of the patients and staff of the institution.