Zivildienst ≠ Kunstprojekt (Social Service ≠ Art Project) is an eighteen-minute black-and-white film made with the collaboration of eight young Germans who devoted part of their civil service—an alternative to military service, which was then compulsory in Germany—to Althea Thauberger’s project.


A native of Saskatoon, Althea Thauberger has been based in Vancouver for several years. She studied photography at Concordia University before going on to earn an MFA at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia. From her earliest works, Thauberger has engaged in a collaborative creative process with the “subjects” she chooses to explore. Her practice has led her to work with young tree planters in B.C., with members of a linguistic minority in northern Italy, and so on. In 2005, she made Murphy Canyon Choir with military spouses on the San Diego base, the largest military housing complex in the U.S. One of her projects took her to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the Canadian Forces. While she was an artist in residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin in 2006, Thauberger reached an agreement with the Zivildienst authorities to work with conscientious objectors on writing and producing a film exploring the ideas of civilian service, questions of national identity, the power of the State and the work ethic.

Thauberger won the 2011 VIVA Award last spring and she was one of the four finalists for the Grange Prize 2011, awarded by the AGO. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe. She has also taken part in numerous group shows, including the 17th Biennial of Sydney; WE: Vancouver, at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2011; Nomads, at the National Gallery of Canada in 2009; Farewell to Postcolonialism, the Guangzhou Triennial, China, in 2008; The Soul, Manifesta 7, in Trento, Italy, in 2008; The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social, at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2008; and Explorations narratives, Le Mois de la photo à Montréal in 2007. Thauberger has worked on various public projects in Montréal, including Décarie Devotional Choir, a community exhibition project at the Saidye Bronfman Centre in 2005; she was also involved in Diabolique, at the Galerie de l’UQAM in 2010. La Centrale presented one of her first solo exhibitions in 2003.

Curated by: Louise Simard