Diana Thater's Science, Fiction

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Diana Thater, "Still from Visual Voyage: Milky Way to the Virgo Cluster," 2015
Nine-monitor video wall and media player
Running time, 9 minute 35 second loop
HDTV visual excerpt from “Runaway Universe,” 2000
Courtesy NOVA/WGHB and PBS, Tom Lucas Productions

Just as we have learned that the dwarf planet Pluto wears a heart on its surface, an exhibition by Diana Thater exlores the realm of the galaxy in Science, Fiction at the San Jose Museum of Art. The LA-based artist could scarcely ignore the fact that stars are barely visible here at night due to our extensive light pollution and seeing the Milky Way? Forget it. And where would the tiny dung beetles be without it? They navigate nocturnally but when the moon is dark, they use the glow of the Milky Way.

Diana Thater, "Still from Science, Fiction (Two)," 2015
Installation for two video projectors, media player and lights
Dimensions variable
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York

This charming factoid generated Thater's installation of a massive white cube with yellow light floating up from under its base and housing a projector for a video of the industrious beetles, named for their small but important job of burying little kernels of manure beneath the surface of the earth, their busy work displayed on the vaulted ceiling above the cube. The humblest of creatures occupy the territory of the sublime and the architecture of the cube forces viewers to stand to one side and gaze upward, at where stars might be in a planetarium.

Diana Thater, "Science, Fiction (Two)," 2015
Installation of two (2) video projectors, media player and lights
Dimensions variable
Photo: © Benjamin Blackwell

As assistant curator Rory Padeken points out in his observant essay, Thater's use of the Minimalist architecture, the gleam of yellow radiance at the base and the ambient blue light lluminating the entire gallery bring to mind the perceptual art of James Turrell. That artist's metaphysical approach is not underminded by the rational science inherent in Thater's piece. The interconnectedness of the celestial and terrestial forces is made irrefutable by a work of art supported by the extraordinary recent advances in astronomical research.

Diana Thater, "Science, Fiction (Two)," 2015
Installation of two (2) video projectors, media player and lights
Dimensions variable
Photo: © Benjamin Blackwell

For an awe-inspiring ride into the void, created with imput from numerous experts at UC Santa Cruz and UCO/Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, Thater also synchronized visualizations from various sources to approximate the experience of deep space and galactic time.

Seated on a bench before Visual Voyager: Milky Way to Virgo Cluster (2015), planets and stars rush forward on a wall-sized grid of video monitors so you feel as though you are piloting the Starship Enterprise. The show continues to September. 13.

And while you are there, don't miss the terrifying and moving work by the late great Harun Farocki based on actual war games played by the military as preparation for live action in the Middle East in Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns, a group exhibition with artists exploring the post 9/11 era.