Exploring the ways we use history and its constructions, the San Francisco-based artist Kota Ezawa describes his own practice as a form of “video archaeology”. Using iconic archival news or film footage, Ezawa addresses how we only remember the past through mediated images – from television, newspapers, cinema – and the dangers which entail from it. The same way as a moving Warhol silkscreen or a South Park cartoon, Kota Ezawa´s video animations employ few colours and details to inquire the power and overlap of popular culture, political action and high art. As a sort of digital approximation of paper cut-out animation, vibrantly coloured and stylized, his flat images are patiently recreated by hand – a single video can take up to a year to be finished – and finally presented to the viewer as a digital projection or a film, or a slide show. Ultimately, such a laborious technique is questioning how – in a culture charged with technologically mediated images – certain images prevail in our collective memory more than others and how rapidly they are replaced.
Kota Ezawa meticulously transforms found footage from television, cinema, and art history into simplified two dimensional vector-based animations. In City of Nature (2011) Ezawa appropriates and deconstructs excerpts from popular films including Jaws, Fitzcarraldo, Deliverance, and Brokeback Mountain. Removing all human presence, Ezawa concentrates on nature as the work’s subject, and its relationship with our visual representation of it. De-contextualized and stripped of any narrative content, the film clips are recognizable, yet untraceable, emphasizing the pervasive and subconscious influence of popular visual media on our collective unconscious.
The video work PRIMETIME (2001) mirrors the format of the American talk shows of Jerry Springer and Maury Povitch, which feign an interest in informative rounds of discussion, but in reality only exploit their candidates’ obsessions with themselves. «Primetime» is presented as a spatial installation with a TV-show staircase that can be mounted.
The video THE ORAL THING (2001) is a tall tale about embarrassing confessions in day time talk shows. The suggested promise of salvation in such TV shows never becomes true. A self portrayal in front of millions of viewers rather satisfies the desire for sensation of the entertainment industry.
The bodily activities which are a preferred topic in these shows seem to be detached from the presented bodies and are reduced to the language of the “talking heads” – an oral TV-culture. In a form of ritual – a mixture between a television church, musical and quiz – a talk master produces two candidates without lower abdomen or arms. He worms secrets out of them, confessions about incestuous love, sex and violence, which are commented by the audience in the studio.
The projection of a larger-than-life human / animal creature in the piece entitled I DO NOT BELONG IN THIS HOUSE (2011) bears a close relation to the figure of Bearskin from the eponymous tale collected by the brothers Grimm. In Grimms fairy tale, a soldier returning from war is made homeless and financially at loss by his brother. In dire straights, he makes a pact with the devil. For seven years, he is not allowed to wash or cut his hair. Also, he must not sleep in a normal bed but rather use the hide of a bear he had to shoot in order to prove his mettle to devil. In his imposed state of neglect, Bearskin assumes the shape of a shaggy, ungainly and smelly animal shunned by society.