Diana Thater’s Videowall Bouquets Mesmerize at Armory Show

As Liz Magic Laser demonstrated through her fact- and figure-studded corporate sendup of a commission, less is rarely more at the Armory Show–a 15-year-old event that this year managed to celebrate its “centennial edition.” Exhibitors determined to get the most bang for their buck (a booth runs around $24,000, according to Laser’s tote bags) erect maze-like configurations to hang, store, and sell as much as possible. David Zwirner has recently taken a more Zen approach to the fair frenzy, devoting the gallery’s booth to a boldly presented solo show.

This year Zwirner gave over its prime rectangle of the fair floor (near the entrance and opposite the champagne bar) to Los Angeles-based video artist Diana Thater, whose haunting “Chernobyl” accompanied the gallery’s post-Sandy reopening last November. The Armory booth unveiled a trio of multi-monitor videowalls playing “Day for Night” (2013), footage of bruisey purple blooms that tremble like viscera through a persistent drizzle and the 16-millimeter haze of multiple camera techniques.

Thater began with bouquets of flowers, placed on a mirror on the ground, and hoisted her camera up on a crane to shoot from above. “They’re all made in sixteen-millimeter film, on a very old camera, and they’re double-exposed film, so they’re not layered in the edit process. They’re layered in the camera,” Thater told us at the fair. “It’s something very simple that’s made in a complicated way.” The bright blue L.A. sky, reflected in the mirror, is made dusky by a day-for-night camera filter. “I brought it down to look like evening so that the flowers would kind of melt into the sky,” she explained.

The mode of display is equally important to Thater, and her deliberately grainy footage made for a mesmerizing contrast with the ultrasleek monitors. “I wanted to make them architectural, like walls or windows, but not like painting, because they’re moving,” added Thater, who pointed to one work in which the film wiggling in the gate melds with the breeze blowing the flowers. “It’s supposed to be very materialist,” she said, rubbing her fingers together. “That’s the idea with film–that it can have this materiality.”