Made In L.A. is coming to the Hammer, Barnsdall Park, LAXART, and billboards around town on June 2 and will showcase sixty emerging, under-recognized Los Angeles artists–one of which will be voted to win a $100,000 prize. In order to help you make an educated vote this summer, we’re counting down to Made In L.A. by showcasing each artist participating in the biennial.
Koki Tanaka is a Los Angeles based artist who works in drawing, photography, installation, and video, mainly focusing on video. He is known for challenging the absurd in his work, specifically in day to day life.
In his statement, Tanaka seems to wander on aimlessly about what he’d like to eat for lunch and why he likes California rolls despite them being completely inauthentic. This is all to illustrate how he thinks, a problem being circumvented by talking around it therefore getting to the point: “There are so many possibilities we are granted, but we have to choose one of them in order to somehow reach our “goal.” And we are fixed into a belief that there is only one goal and all the other places you get to are purely wrong. But wait a minute, is there only one goal really? No, there are so many possible goals before even thinking about making choices.” This is all very dense, yes, but that is Tanaka and his work: it’s absurdity that brings you to meaning.
Everything Is Everything, above, best exemplifies this and is a video piece that almost serves as a thesis statement. He takes normal objects and examines how they are used, the relationship between them and space, and what the significance of doing these things is. You can watch it and go, “Huh: you can do that with a hangar?” He restructures the narratives of objects in this piece and explores them with a bit of fantasy and whimsy. Walk Through, test no. 2 does similar work, him going through a small gallery space destroying and trying to repurpose common objects resulting in a humorous creation of moving live sculpture that is an unpredictable Rube Goldberg device. Other works like Take an orange and throw it away without thinking too much, Turning The Lights On, and the more recent a haircut by 9 hairdressers at once (second attempt)–below–turn normal objects, activities, and jobs into absurdist repurposes, moving or static sculptures of slight normal mania.
To be honest, Tanaka is very difficult to digest. He’s going to be one of the artists whose work will be viewed by people accompanied with a, “Huh?” It’s very easy to just go, “Well, that’s a guy throwing pots around and stepping on cups.” That’s the point, though: finding and even forcing meaning onto the mundane, normal, everything we do. It’s like the title of his thesis statement of a piece: Everything Is Everything.