Beta Space: Diana Thater
For millennia, humans have turned to the stars to navigate their way, to seek spiritual guidance, and to track the coming seasons. Now, thanks to powerful modern telescopes and the advances of astrophysics, we can even glimpse distant corners of the universe unseen by previous generations of stargazers.
Humans are not the only animals to look up at night. Birds, whales, and seals follow certain stars during their long, seasonal migrations. Moths and nocturnal wasps fly by the light of the moon. However, only one member of the animal kingdom is known to use the luminous band of the Milky Way for orientation: the dung beetle.
Long interested in the mysteries of the night sky and of the natural world, internationally recognized artist Diana Thater will create a dramatic new video and light installation based on her fascination with the dung beetle and its relationship to our galaxy. Larger-than-life moving images of the jewellike insect will float through digital animations of the Milky Way on the barrel-vaulted ceiling of SJMA's soaring skylight gallery. Directly below this starry scene, a 16-by-20-by-8-foot box will emit a soft yellow light like that of the sun. Thater will envelop the entire gallery with blue light to mimic the environment that the beetle inhabits. Since the early 1990s, Thater has created encompassing film and video installations in which she suffuses the architectural space with layers of color, imagery, and light.
"I work with rooms of color…[and] with tinting space all the time," Thater explained. "It reminds you how important light is to art." She often takes an animal's interactions with its environment as a starting point to investigate larger ideas of space and time. As she noted, "My work as an artist is about rethinking the environment…rethinking how other beings live in the world…to change the way people see the world."
This exhibition is the fourth in SJMA's ongoing series "Beta Space." Like the legendary Silicon Valley garage, "Beta Space" serves as an experimental laboratory for artists, collaborative ventures, and catalytic ideas. Silicon Valley has long been a national and international center of astronomical activity. Thater is collaborating with Puragra GuhaThakurta, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and UCO/Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in San Jose. A leading international expert on the formation and evolution of galaxies, GuhaThakurta has advised Thater on the selection of images and animations of the Milky Way created from scientific observations of the universe generated primarily with the Hubble Space Telescope.