Monday, April 23, 2012

Sarah Buckius + Koki Tanaka + Cao Fei

Sarah Buckius - trapped inside pixels - Video
My art review repost from Austin in November 2011

ArtHouse at the Jones Center is why Austin contemporary art flourishes. This center is a beacon that attracts important art to Texas. They also show a large number of talented Texas artists as well. ArtHouse is exactly what a contemporary art center should be in a state capitol: a center for cutting edge art that educates, which displays challenging art, and which provides talks and films. Video art is often a tough product to unpack for the public, but ArtHouse's exhibition of Sarah Buckius’, Koki Tanaka’s, and Cao Fei’s videos give us a lot to chew on..

Sarah Buckius' video “Trapped inside pixels” keeps your eye moving, looking, and never resting. Her movement is robotic and jerky. I feel nervous just watching. Sarah Buckius is keenly aware of the history of film and animation. Buckius' composition reminds me of Eadweard Muybridge’s 1872 studies of motion through photography, only with the benefit of computers; Buckius fills the space with motion in fifty little squares of light. In each box, her body is twisting, jumping,
and stretching. Buckius uses black and white in this piece to further tie us to past motion studies.

Koki Tanaka’s videos are like simplified versions of a Rube Goldberg machine. The video, “Buckets and Balls” use everyday objects in a non-descript room to illustrate a bucket and ball interaction. You can feel the anxiety of the hit or miss of the ball to the bucket, although I don’t know why. After all, I’m not into sports, but the tension of failure or success is very present. However, is the point to get the ball into the bucket really relevant or is it because I am associating this video with sports-like goals? I am left to wonder about Tanaka’s set ups and executions of the ball-to-bucket actions.

Back in 2004, I was getting the Paris Review and on one particular issue there was a screen shot from a video by artist Cao Fei. Now, I haven’t really kept up with this artist, but when I saw the artist’s name at ArtHouse, something clicked and I started digging through my old journals to find this artist. Cao Fei's obsession with youth culture reminds me of the SuperFlat Movement that Takashi Murakami founded. Rather than painting, she uses video, internet, and photography as her
medium. Cao Fei is a whole lot of silly fun, but she also adds a little dark humor to the mix.

Video artists, like print makers or photographers, tend to make limited editions of their work. So, a video artist might only create 3 to 5 copies of an art piece for collectors. I would bet Sarah Buckius, Koki Tanaka, and Cao Fei have come to an understanding with their galleries on issuing these copies. Although many video artists have recently been releasing their work to wide audiences through social
media, the limited edition video art will always have the important function of bringing people to an institution to see an art work and experience the work in a curated setting.
For more images of the show visit

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