Marvel at Diana Thater’s Immersive Videoscapes at MCA


Opening Oct. 29 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Diana Thater: The Sympathetic Imagination presents a series of immersive film and video installations that push the limit of these media to imagine animal experiences in natural habitats.

In Delphine (1999), for example, LED lights activate the space, while projected film and video footage of dolphins from many angles simulate the animals’ underwater environment, including the ways they perceive it through sonar and sight. The intersection of film and video with installation practices in Thater’s work, which often incorporates viewers’ bodies and even the projectors themselves, is one of the artist’s major contributions to the field of contemporary art.


Diana Thater, Delphine, 1999. Four video projectors, nine-monitor video wall, five players, and four LED Wash Lights; overall dimensions variable. © Diana Thater. Art Institute of Chicago, Donna and Howard Stone New Media Fund, 2005.93.

The colorful installations break out of the video rectangle—often falling somewhere between sculpture and architecture—to imagine fluid worlds of dolphins, dancing bees, and the animals that inhabit the irradiated explosion site at Chernobyl.

Since the early 1990s, Diana Thater (American, b. 1962) has been a pioneer of film and video. Influenced by 1960s films that prioritized medium over narrative and content, she has forged meaningful connections between her subject matter and media to push the physical, optical, and conceptual boundaries of how moving images are experienced.

A conversation about the exhibition with Thater and curators Michael Darling and Joey Orr will take place at 3 p.m. opening day, Oct. 29, and is free with admission.

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