Althea Thauberger Casts Kids as … Us

THE DAILY PIC: The Vancouver artist films tykes acting out adult debates.

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This is a still from Althea Thauberger’s video called “Preuzmimo Benčić (Take Back Benčić)”, which I recently caught at Susan Hobbs gallery in Toronto. (Click on my image to view a clip.) Thauberger’s work is always fiendishly complex but also reliably compelling, and this is no exception. The video is set and was shot in the Croatian port city of Rijeka, in the abandoned (but gorgeous) Rikard Benčić factory complex; the factory’s potential reuse has apparently been the subject of great civic debate and tension. For her piece, Thauberger got 67 local children to improvise possible reuse scenarios, with some playing factory workers retrained for the “creative industries” and others playing local administrators with their own ideas for the site, while still others play bosses and laborers. (Although none of those roles are all that clearly defined; misdirection and confusion are the order of the day.) If I’ve made the video sound dry and academic, the crucial antidote to that is the element of absurdity that the kids inject into things – into Thauberger’s video, as a work of art, but also into the political and cultural conflicts they act out. I’m somehow reminded of the Houyhnhnm chapter in Gulliver’s Travels, where “dumb” animals come off as smarter than the most sophisticated of (adult) humans. But as with Swift’s chapter, the meaning of Thauberger’s video can’t be pinned down to some simple political or moral message. The real world of adult decision-making is every bit as confusing and complex – and ludicrous – as children’s play.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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