Diana Thater
Practical Effects, 2022
©Victor&Simon - Grégoire d'Ablon

Diana Thater:
Practical Effects

The Tower
Glassroom, Level - 2
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Approaching the idea of post-apocalyptic life through a poignant and wistful lens, Practical Effects follows a primate-like biomimetic robot.

As the last being left on Earth, the robot has been tasked with the care and upkeep of a garden filled with intricately sculpted topiary animals. Devoid of human, animal, or mechanical contact, the colorful but weather-worn robot can only find companionship in the manicured topiary figures it cares for, putting forth a strange and tragicomic vision of how the organic and inorganic worlds might eventually collide and support one another in unexpected ways.

The title of the artwork Practical Effects refers to the cinematic art of creating analog special effects without the use of digital enhancements or other post-production techniques. Thater drew inspiration from the 1972 cult science-fiction film Silent Running, which explored the idea of robots as gardeners and gathered critical praise for its unique use of costumes and practical effects to characterize these possibly sentient beings. In turn, Thater collaborated with notable Hollywood costume house Michael Schmidt Studios to design and build the robot in Practical Effects. Thater and Schmidt employed similar strategies in the design of her film’s mechanical protagonist, bringing a crucial, irreplicable sense of humanity and soulfulness to its movements and gestures.

Thater says: ‘In 2017, I began researching biomimetic robotics—robots based on animals—that have been built by engineers at NASA and MIT. To me, the robotic animal represents a twenty-first-century idea of the natural world; they propose that animals may serve as models for machines that can learn. I have long been interested in the idea of the inorganic machine caring for the organic world. We are in the era of the sixth great mass extinction—a human-made disaster that will bring thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I have spent my artistic career depicting images and ideas of the animal as we live through this era. In Practical Effects I attempt to create a sympathetic response to the animal and argue for their lives—for the animal as subject. It’s about the idea of seeing animals in places where they don’t belong; about how nature has become unnatural. What would it mean for the last creature on Earth—this man-robot-animal—to be a gardener and a caretaker of things past and future?’


Curatedy by Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, Director of Exhibitions and Programs. 



"I'm very interested in surrounding the viewer with imagery and having the viewer (…) become part of the installation." Victor & Simon

Diana Thater in Chernobyl. Photo by Volodymyr Palylyk, 2010

Diana Thater

Born in 1962 in San Francisco, Diana Thater studied art history at New York University, before receiving her MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

In 2018, the artist was awarded an Art + Technology Lab Grant from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Other notable awards and fellowships include a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2014), as well as the award for artistic innovation from the Center for Cultural Innovation, Los Angeles (2011); the James D. Phelan Award in Film and Video (2006); the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2005); and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1993).

Over the past decade, her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions that include the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2015); San Jose Museum of Art, California (2015); Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2011); Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2010); Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2009); Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany (2004); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (2001); and the Secession, Vienna (2000).

In 2018, a solo presentation of the artist’s work was the inaugural exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s Watershed space. In 2015, a comprehensive mid-career survey of Thater’s work, The Sympathetic Imagination, was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and later traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


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