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Althea Thauberger: Zivildienst  Kunstprojekt/ Social Service  Art Project

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Althea Thauberger: Zivildienst  Kunstprojekt/ Social Service  Art Project

625 W.27th St.
New York, NY 10001
March 23rd, 2007 - April 21st, 2007

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http://www.johnconnellypresents.com
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chelsea
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DESCRIPTION
John Connelly Presents is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of new work by Canadian artist Althea Thauberger. In the past Thauberger has collaborated closely with various social communities to create performance based video and photographic works. Her work usually involves an extended period of research and development where the artist strives to reveal socio-political constructions imbedded within the broad dynamics of a given group consciousness. Essential to Thauberger's process is an element of shared responsibility, collaboration and dialogue where the participants in each project contribute a measure of personal subjectiveness to the final product. She has worked together with teenage actresses to write a modern operetta about a drowned pet dog; U.S. military wives to commission original autobiographical musical compositions; and a troupe of Canadian tree-planters to enact and film an epic allegory about death, consciousness and re-birth. Among many other references her works engage in a kind of Brechtian discourse around radical absurdity and breaks with escapist representation, group psychology and the distribution of authority and leadership.

Thauberger's latest project was produced in collaboration with eight young German men during a yearlong artist residency at the Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. All of the men, ages 18 - 22, are participating in
Zivildienst – a program created by the government in the 1950's to allow those that "conscientiously object to carrying a weapon" the ability to fulfill their military service obligation through social work. Typically, these young men provide labor in hospitals, nursing homes, kindergartens or other social programs – significantly supplementing the government's social welfare system. Thauberger made an official agreement with the Zivildienst authority to allow these young civil servants to "serve" in the context of an art project. Over the course of 3 1/2 months Thauberger worked closely with the Zivis, engaging in improvisational exercises and holding bi-weekly meetings to discuss issues such as the Zivildienst system and military service, national identity, work ethics and personal/autobiographical concerns. The realization of the project was a performance the young men created through a series of stylized postures or vignettes where the archetypal metaphors of an "alienated" community are depicted within a large architectural set made of scaffolding.

On view at the gallery will be a series of color portraits of the
Zivis (as they chose to be portrayed) accompanied by fictional autobiographies they wrote as one of Thauberger's exercises, a large group portrait of the young men "boxed in" by the pictures parameters (designed for the cover of a catalog documenting the project) and a black & white image of the empty set. Projected In a separate room will be an 18-minute video of the Zivis performing the series of postures they choreographed to portray a narrative arc of isolation, despair, idealism, co-operation, betrayal and endurance, using themselves as the protagonists.

Curator Binna Choi writes about the critical reading of the
Zivildienst project in an essay on Thauberger's work published on the occasion of "Alone Again (In the Likeness of Life)," a solo exhibition organized by BAK: basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, The Netherlands, January 14 - February 25, 2007:

"The outcome of this process can be seen in two ways. The fictional biographies written by the participants appear alongside individual portraits, depicting the slippage between imagination and real life. In this way, the youths’ forced “social service” appears to be transformed into a kind of engagement. This engagement, however, does not serve to clarify identity but rather discloses the uncertainty and pain associated with social life, where one is neither completely alone nor completely together. This fragility or vulnerability is manifested in a choreographic and collaborative performance, which mimics individual and collective gestures. Recorded in pious black and- white film, the performance is orchestrated in slow and grand gestures in the midst of an imposing architectural setting of construction scaffolding. The constant interchange between the performers’ physical movements—which are malleable and at the same time robust—gradually reveals the disparate aspects of living in a community where all different individuals’ desires and conditions intersect and collide. Conflict, unfamiliarity, trauma, negotiation, discipline, deviation, and the threat of betrayal are all part of this “web of singularities.” They are far removed from the mode of “helping people in an equal and democratic process to make society better” so often found both in the sector of “social service” and in many community-based projects. What the performance engraves in our minds is the inherent difficulties of dealing with individual posturing and collective demands."

Thauberger earned an MFA in studio art at the University of Victoria in 2002, and a BFA in photography at Concordia University in 2000. Her recent solo exhibitions include Berkeley Art Museum and White Columns in New York, and BAK, basis voor akuele kunst in Utrecht, Netherlands, and the Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. She has also recently participated in numerous group exhibitions in museums and galleries in North America, Europe and Asia. Thauberger lives and works in Vancouver and Berlin.  

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