Art openings tend to be loud affairs, oftentimes with a DJ's bumping background music accompanying the din of chatty art admirers. But at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, 1301 PE Gallery will open its doors to an unusually silent reception.
“A lot of people think that the most important art invention in the 20th century was abstraction, and that’s not necessarily true. The greatest invention in the 20th century in terms of art is the moving image,” says artist Diana Thater.
Thater's video installation “Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet’s Garden, Part I and Part II,” opening at 1301PE, will be intentionally noiseless. Brian Butler, 1301’s owner, said that there will be no music or sound for the duration of the show, from its opening to its closing on January 12th of next year.
Butler says that one of the reasons why Thater won't use sound is that the silence "forces you to be present to a piece. If you’re looking at the visuals and the audio placed together, you’re transported somewhere. And if you’re just looking, then you always remain present," he said. "The exhibition will be the work.”
But Thater's exhibit will intrinsically transport her viewers somewhere, hopefully to Monet's Gardens. The installation is an actual reconstruction of Claude Monet's gardens in France, where Thater herself did a residency in 1991. Using a series of projectors, she recreated the garden at various stages in bloom over a 5-month period, with each overlapping projection containing one element of color. The installations themselves are tailored to the architecture of the gallery space.
The motivation for the piece in 1992, originally called "Into the Lapse," according to Butler stemmed from a a birthday party that Thater was at. "There were various other video artists," he said. "Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Jean Rasenberger — and I sort of said I hated video. With that, everyone was up in arms."
For her part, Thater said that the video came together as part of her residency at the famed gardens. "I wouldn't have made it for any other reason," she said. "I was living there for six months and I studied art history."
Whatever the motivation, "Oo Fifi" has since been exhibited around the world and recieved acclaim along the way. But recently Thater thought it time to re-exhibit the work. "It's time to remind everyone what happened twenty years ago," she said. While she is not showing anything new, this will be the first time that "Oo Fifi, Part I and Part II" will be shown in the same gallery - each on a different floor.
"Chernobyl," Thater's latest video installation, is showing concurrently at Manhattan's David Zwirner Gallery. The piece was originally slated to shown in January, but because of the damage Hurricane Sandy caused to the gallery and other artist's work, Thater's exhibit opened earlier than planned. "Chernobyl," has gained Thater a lot of press recently. Thater herself identifies the exhibit as "a sort of disaster film." She explained that it is interesting to have "Oo Fifi," a "very beautiful and straightforward" installation that is based on the history of video and the history of art, in juxtaposition to a show focused on man's dysfunctional relatonship with nature.
Butler, Thater's longtime friend and champion, is confident that her continuous study of the volatile relationship between man and nature reflects the evolutionary path of life and thereby, art. "Art is not always just to be self-gratifying," he said. "Art can challenge us."