“Slacker” Meets Painting in the Visual Arts Center’s New Exhibits

The Blanton isn’t the only space to see cutting-edge art on campus this fall.

Starting tonight, don’t miss the chance to see how rebellion meets art meets the movie Slacker. It all figures into work by a New York artist with Austin ties.

Mika Tajima’s “The Architect’s Garden” installation opens (along with a set of other fall exhibits) at 6 p.m. at the Department of Art and Art History’s Visual Arts Center.

Bright, modern, and thought-provoking, Tajima’s art is inspired by the ways people use spaces, whether expected or rebellious.

She explores scaffolding and what it says about overdevelopment, for instance, and cubicles and what they say about modern “efficiency.”

A 27-foot blue and yellow set of scaffolding with the word DETOUR spelled out around it in the VAC’s Vaulted Gallery underscores the point. How do people react to the giant forms and obstacles in their space? Do they deface them? Walk around them? Use them in unsanctioned ways?

She also plays off Herman Miller’s “Action Office,” the cubicle forerunner designed in the ’60s to increase worker efficiency. The modernist rhetoric that surrounded Miller’s work, she says, has influenced the social spaces people have had to live with ever since.

“They really believed the rhetoric—they’re efficient! They’re modern! They’re standardized, but they’re customizable!” she says. By the ’70s, she adds, designers employed interior decorators to try to humanize the wall panels with different fabrics.

Tajima’s latest work also touches on themes from Richard Linklater’s Slacker, the movie that helped launch a new indie film wave in the early ’90s and established Austin as critical to the scene.

Tajima lived in Austin for most of her childhood while her parents taught at UT. Slacker came out in 1991, when she was in high school, “so it was planted deep in my head,” she says. The ways the characters refused to have normal, conformist identities intrigued her.

“What are the contemporary ways of dealing with overproduction or overdevelopment? Now more than ever, Slacker seems so important,” Tajima says. “They’re talking about wars, and the workaday life, and advanced capitalism—it’s so much more intense.”

Linklater is aware of Tajima’s work, but the two haven’t talked about it in-depth yet. The two will have a public discussion of Slacker and art on Tuesday evening; click here for details. The program and exhibition are co-organized by the Blanton Museum of Art.

Photos by Matt Portillo


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