Althea Thauberger, Marat Sade Bohnice, 2012, theatrical production and high definition video, 47:12. Installation view, Audain Gallery, 2014. Photos: Blaine Campbell.

Althea Thauberger: Marat Sade Bohnice

January 16 – March 8, 2014
Audain Gallery

Althea Thauberger’s Marat Sade Bohnice is a video installation that centres on the staging of Peter Weiss’ 1963 play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital in Prague. Her work documents the reconfiguration and presentation of the play in this location to audiences of the institution’s patients and staff, and in doing so approaches layered issues of reassessment and (de)institutionalization within shifting political terrains.

The original 1963 play imagines that the Marquis de Sade wrote and directed a play about the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat while the former was interned in France’s Charenton asylum in 1808, nineteen years after the beginning of the French Revolution and immense institutional reform. It was the beginning of reformed mental illness treatment - from punishment to therapy - and in the 1963 play, the inmates enact the drama both as themselves as patients and as historical characters. The play reveals an ongoing debate about whether the imperatives of revolution originate within the individual or within society as a whole.

While the original play is set in Charenton’s bathhouse, Thauberger’s production took place in the decommissioned waterworks and laundry facilities of Bohnice, another post-revolutionary institution and the largest psychiatric clinic in the Czech Republic. Her video documentation of the play is punctuated by interviews with staff and patients of the institution that function to disrupt the play’s narrative and specifically situate it. Like Charenton, Bohnice is an institution through which broader structural, ideological and economic societal shifts can be read: it privatized its core services shortly after the Velvet Revolution and it is in the beginning stages of deinstitutionalization. Thauberger produced the play in collaboration with Akanda, an experimental theatre company in Prague.

Marat Sade Bohnice approaches philosophical and art histories, questions art’s agency and its role within therapy, as well as troubles the systems of human (un)freedom. Shown in Vancouver for the first time, the work can be read beside the conditions of deinstutionalization in the city. Consistent with Thauberger’s practice, in which she often works with seemingly marginal groups through which larger societal structures may be examined (such as a Kashmiri theatre group, new mothers in Copenhagen, San Diego military wives, Canadian tree planters, Canadian women in uniform deployed in Afghanistan, male youth in the German civil service, minority-language poets in Italy and resident artists of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside), the project Marat Sade Bohnice creates a space of expression and self-presentation for her collaborators, and reveals social and political issues without assuming an entrenched critical position.

Thauberger’s work has been shown widely including at The Power Plant, Toronto; the 7th Liverpool Biennial; The 17th Sydney Biennial; The 3rd Gaungzhou Triennial; Manifesta 7, Trento, Italy; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver; Vancouver Art Gallery; BAK, Utrecht; Kunstverein Wolfsburg; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax; Singapore History Museum; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp; Berkeley Art Museum; Insite, San Diego/Tijuana; White Columns, New York; Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Artspeak, Vancouver; and Seattle Art Museum. She recently presented at the 2013 Creative Time Summit in New York. She studied at Concordia University (BFA) and University of Victoria (MFA).

Curated by Melanie O'Brian with Amy Kazymerchyk.


Opening Reception
Wednesday, January 15, 7pm

Artist Talk: Althea Thauberger
Wednesday, January 15, 6pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, Simon Fraser University
149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

No Looking After the Internet: Helen Reed, Body Techniques
Wednesday, February 5, 6pm
Audain Gallery

Sociologist Marcel Mauss used the term “techniques of the body” to describe a background level of learned social behaviour about the “proper” use of the body. By slipping between time periods, institutional frameworks and social contexts, Marat Sade Bohnice excavates the accumulation of these implicit techniques. Addressing those themes, Helen Reed will discuss multiplicity and mimesis in Thauberger’s work. An ongoing series of talks, No Looking After the Internet prompts the close reading of images and objects, and encourages visual literacy through sustained private and public attention in the gallery.


With an interest in participatory culture, affinity groups, and fantasy-based subcultures, Helen Reed’s practice engages specific communities in collaborative projects to produce vernacular forms and media to circulate back into the communities that generated them. Exhibiting nationally and internationally, Reed holds a BFA from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and an MFA in Art and Social Practice from Portland State University. 

Exhibition Tour: Melanie O’Brian
Saturday, February 22, 1pm
Audain Gallery

Join us for a tour of the exhibition led by Curator and SFU Galleries Director, Melanie O’Brian. Afterward, walk with us to the Satellite Gallery for a 2pm tour of works from the collection of Michael O’Brian, led by curators Cate Rimmer, Keith Wallace, Karen Duffek and Helga Pakasaar. Then continue to Contemporary Art Gallery for a 3pm tour of projects by Aurélien Froment and Tim Etchells, led by CAG Director Nigel Prince.   

Panel Discussion: The Madness of History: Situating Marat Sade Bohnice in Time and Space
Wednesday, March 5, 6pm
Audain Gallery

Please join us in Audain Gallery for a free panel discussion featuring Marina Marrow, Jan Pfeiffer and Jerry Zaslove, moderated by Samir Gandesha.

Considering the complex and far-reaching implications of the exhibition of Marat Sade Bohnice in the unique context of Vancouver, the panel will address topics including Peter Weiss’ life and practice, the Foucauldian themes of madness and the carceral, the histories of de-institutionalization and mental health reform in British Columbia and elsewhere, shifting notions of human rights and citizenship, and the critical value of cultural intervention and social engagement in institutional programming.


Marina Morrow is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health ( Morrow's research interests include the study of mental health reforms, with a focus on the history and impact of deinstitutionalization. She is co-producer of the film The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Stories from the MPA.  

Jan Pfeiffer has over thirty years experience as a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and clinical supervisor in the Czech Republic and United Kingdom, and in the transformation of institutional mental health services into community-based alternatives. He has worked as a consultant for WHO, European Commission, Council of Europe, Global Initiative on Psychiatry, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Lumos Foundation and others, and is a longstanding member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Pfeiffer is one of the featured interviewees in Marat Sade Bohnice, and he contributed an essay for the project's publication.

At Simon Fraser University since 1965, Jerry Zaslove is Professor Emeritus of Humanities and English and Director Emeritus of SFU's Institute for the Humanities, which he helped establish as its founding Director. Drawing from critical theory, psychoanalysis and the theory and practice of anarchism, Zaslove's academic focuses include comparative literature and the social history of art. His recent work has addressed themes such as the cynicism of the university and the city and the uses of exile, and has also included an adaptation of Franz Kafka's In the Penal Colony, which was produced in relation to SFU Gallery's 2009 exhibition, The Insurance Man: Kafka in The Penal Colony, co-curated by Zaslove and Bill Jeffries.


Samir Gandesha is Associate Professor of Modern European thought and Culture in the Department of the Humanities and the current Director of the Institute for the Humanities at SFU. He is the co-editor with Lars Rensmann of Arendt and Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations (Stanford, 2012) and is finishing a book with Johan Hartle entitled The Poetry of the Future: Marx and the Aesthetic (forthcoming 2014).

The Madness of History: Situating Marat Sade Bohnice in Time and Space is presented by Audain Gallery in collaboration with the Institute for the Humanities at SFU.

Support Material


Artist Talk: Althea Thauberger
Wednesday, January 15, 6pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre

Panel Discussion: The Madness of History: Situating Marat Sade Bohnice in Time and Space
Wednesday, March 5, 6pm
Audain Gallery