Critical Writing Index

The Witness

by Rosemary Heather

Canadian Art, Spring 2007, v. 24, no. 1, pp. 46-49

The work of Vancouver-based artist Althea Thauberger can provoke the extreme discomfort of the sophisticated confronting the naive. This is particularly true of Songstress (2001–02), which has all the hallmarks of Thauberger's practice, in which she creates video portraits of social groups by collaborating with them. The mawkish Songstress, presenting performances by young female singer/songwriters, divided opinion over whether the artist was empowering the participants or taking advantage of their intentions. Viewers of her videos who balk at the performances' stereotypical content reveal another set of stereotypes: the expectation that performers should conform to mass media–promoted norms of how singers should look and sound. Today, direct experience tends to be refracted or “lived” through its representation, and Thauberger shows us the truth of this by creating artwork that refers to pop genres, but on terms ensuring that basic aspects of their conventions will be unmet.

ITEM 2007.162 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Murphy Canyon Choir (2005)Althea Thauberger

Songstress (2001-2002)