From January 4 to February 19, 2012, the Musée dart contemporain de Montréal
is presenting Zivildienst ≠ Kunstprojekt (Social Service ≠ Art Project) by the Canadian artist from Saskatoon Althea Thauberger. Screened as part of the Projections series, this eighteen-minute black-and-white film was produced with the collaboration of eight young Germans who devoted part of their civil service to the artists project. Thauberger, based in Vancouver for several years, studied photography at Concordia University (2000) before going on to earn an MFA at the University of Victoria in British Columbia (2002). A meeting with the artist will take place on Wednesday, February 1, in the Beverley Webster Rolph Hall.
As artist in residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin in 2006, Thauberger reached an agreement with the German authorities of the Zivildienst (the civil service) in order to work with conscientious objectors who had chosen this option as an alternative to the military service compulsory in Germany at that time. With these young men Thauberger worked on writing and producing a film that explores issues connected with civil service, national identity, the power of the State and the question of ethics and work.
Thaubergers internationally produced and exhibited work typically involves interactions with a group or a community that result in performances, films, videos, audio recordings and books. These interactions give rise to sometimes disturbing reflections on social, political, institutional and aesthetic power relations. For example, her art has taken her to work with young tree planters in British Columbia and with members of a linguistic minority in Northern Italy. In 2005 she made Murphy Canyon Choir with military spouses on the San Diego base, the largest military housing complex in the United States. Another of her projects even took her to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the Canadian forces.
Last spring Thauberger won the 2011 VIVA Award, presented in British Columbia to a mid-career artist chosen for outstanding achievement and commitment. She was also one of the four finalists for the 2011 Grange Prize awarded by the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2004 she was one of the five finalists for the Sobey Art Award for her video A Memory Lasts Forever/Un souvenir pour léternité. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe, including one in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2008, Zivildienst ≠ Kunstprojekt (Social Service ≠ Art Project) at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin in 2006, and Songstress, and one of her first solo shows presented at La Centrale Powerhouse Gallery in Montreal in 2003.
The artist has also taken part in numerous group exhibitions. These include the 17th Sydney Biennale; WE: Vancouver at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2011, Nomads at the National Gallery of Canada in 2009, Farewell to Postcolonialism at the Guangzhou Triennale in China in 2008, The Soul at Manifesta 7, Trento, Italy in 2008, The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2008, and Explorations narratives in Le Mois de la photo in Montreal in 2007. Althea Thauberger has also worked on several public projects in Montreal, including Décarie Devotional Choir, a community exhibition project at the Saidye Bronfman Art Centre in 2005, and Diabolique at La Galerie de lUQAM in 2010.