Opening reception: Friday, November 9, 6 – 8 PM
David Zwirner is pleased to announce the re-opening of our
gallery on Friday, November 9, with an exhibition by Diana Thater
entitled Chernobyl, on view at 519 West 19th Street. Framed around
the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, the 2011 video installation
spotlights the consequences of manmade catastrophes on the natural
world. The urgency of its subject matter resonates in the immediate
aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the damage it wrought within the
Chelsea art district, and beyond.
Diana Thater is one of the most important video artists working today.
Since the early 1990s, she has created a wide range of film, video,
and installation-based works whose sculptural forms engage spatial
perception in physical, as well as conceptual, terms. Her pioneering
oeuvre was among the first to push the boundaries of how new media
art is displayed, helping to cement its position in the art world.
Through a combination of the temporal qualities of video and the
architectural dimension of its physical installation, Thater’s work
explores the artifice of its own production and its capacity to construct
perception and shape the way we think about the world through its image. Natural diversity, wildlife, and conservation have been
persistent themes in the artist’s work, and she has dedicated herself to an examination of the varied kinds of relationships humans
have constructed with animals. While her in-depth studies of ecosystems and animal behavior propose observation as a kind of
understanding in itself, her ethical position is implicit in the work, which, while subtly political, provides views of the sublime in all its
incarnations—stunning, beautiful, and simultaneously terrifying.
Chernobyl features imagery from the “zone of alienation,” a nineteen mile (30 km) wide exclusion area created around the site of the
Chernobyl nuclear explosion in northeastern Ukraine (then officially Ukrainian SSR) in 1986. Over one hundred thousand people were
evacuated from the area within a short time span, leaving behind all but a few of their personal belongings. The zone has since been a
no-man’s-land dotted with abandoned villages and decaying infrastructure, largely untouched since the day of the disaster. It remains
accessible only to special teams and researchers, though temporary visitor permits are granted.
To create this work, Thater stayed within the exclusion zone. Chernobyl takes its point of departure in the ghost city of Prypiat, which
was purpose-built in 1972 to house workers at the nuclear plant. Using the desolate remains of Prypiat’s movie theater as a pivot,
Thater’s footage focuses on the area’s wildlife, and in particular the endangered Przewalski’s Horse, a subspecies of wild horse released
into the area following the catastrophe and now roaming freely, undisturbed by human interaction. Other animal populations have
since returned to the area, yet according to most studies, their numbers remain severely depleted.
In Chernobyl, Thater juxtaposes pastoral scenery with destruction both apparent and implied, and in the process highlights the
relationship between Western industrial civilization and the regenerative potential of nature left to itself. It mirrors a tension between
the natural environment and mediated reality that can be seen throughout the artist’s work. The shape of the installation copies that
of the movie theater in Prypiat. The work is made from a video re-creation of the theater with images of the zone of alienation layered
over it, asking the viewer to see the world in the theater and the theater in the world.
For a complete artist biography, visit davidzwirner.com. For press inquiries, please contact
Julia Joern at David Zwirner 917-371-6447 (cell & text) email@example.com