Mika Tajima

Austin Director Richard Linklater stopped by the art building to speak with visiting artist Mika Tajima about his 1991 film, “Slacker,” the philosophy of slacking and how they relate to Tajima’s exhibition at the UT Visual Arts Center.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

Director and filmmaker Richard Linklater and artist Mika Tajima contended that slackers aren’t apathetic or lazy, but are instead driven by a unique ideology that emphasizes enjoying life. They discussed their views on slackers at a program presented Tuesday by the Blanton Museum of Art and the UT Visual Arts Center.

Linklater, known for his 1991 film “Slacker,” and Tajima, creator of an exhibit in the Visual Arts Center entitled “The Architect’s Garden,” noted the ways art facilitates an appreciation of a slacker’s world view.

Tajima said she often integrates the concept of ‘flaneur,’ or experiencing the world as you stroll through it with no particular destination in mind, into her work. She said flaneur is a key element to one piece she has on display at the Visual Arts Center, where emphasis is put on the empty space in the work, rather than the physical parts of the piece.

“It’s like the classroom at the University where no one showed up to class,” Tajima said.

Society often overlooks great pieces of art and artists that require them to think about that space in between the art, or non-traditionalist thought, Linklater said.

“My prototypical American slacker would be Henry David Thoreau,” Linklater said. “People hated Thoreau.”

Thoreau, a renowned 19th century essayist and naturalist, is an example of people who have rejected the traditional way of life in centuries past, he said.

“There’s always going to be people who are going to be like ‘screw this, I want to live,’” Linklater said.

Linklater said he believes that people who avoid consumeristic obsession usually are more apt to place emphasis on life and people rather than their dollar value.

“The stock market crashes,” Linklater said. “We’re like ‘so what?’ There’s a sense of community. There’s not a lot of greed.”

Linklater and Tajima acknowledged the growing influence of consumerism in the evolving purpose of college, a topic recent Trinity University graduate and Visual Arts Center intern Elyse Rodriguez said directly applied to her life.

“We touched upon many issues that affected me personally as a recent college grad,” Rodriguez said. “College used to not be so expensive. Now, you are pressured into taking a job right away, even if it’s not what you love. I want to do my own thing. I don’t want to be in a cubicle with computers because it makes me money.”

People must decide how they define the word “work” before being able to truly appreciate a non-consumeristic ideology, Linklater said.

“You have to be careful how you define work,” Linklater said. “I don’t really consider what I do work. This is the life I chose. I love it.”

Linklater’s most recent piece of work, “Bernie,” starring Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey, isn’t set to be released until next year, but audiences will have a chance to screen it Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Paramount Theatre to raise funds for fire victims in Bastrop. Most filming was done in Bastrop, and Linklater has property in the area.

“It’s something people in Austin can do to help our neighbors,” Linklater said. “My neighbors all lost their houses. Unlike my neighbors, I am not homeless.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Director, artist inspired by slacking.

Artist Mika Tajima gives a lecture on the boundaries of perception at the Edgar A. Smith Auditorium on Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Luis Jasso | Daily Texan Staff

Standing in the midst of slide projections, scaffolds and paintings displaying vivid and energetic colors, artist Mika Tajima quietly surveyed her work as it neared completion Tuesday in the Visual Arts Center.

At a Blanton Museum event on campus Tuesday, Tajima, the new artist-in-residence at the UT, explained her creation process for her exhibit “The Architect’s Garden,” set to be open from Sept. 9 until Dec. 17 in the Visual Arts Center.

The exhibit combines painting, sculpture, architecture and video and incorporates elements from the UT and Austin community. Tajima said she based her exhibit on the two major standpoints of UT architecture and the idea of cultural refusal.

She said she incorporated aspects of UT architecture with references in the print patterns to the Perry-Castañeda Library, window shapes and building forms.

“I’m always sort of looking to architecture as a reference because that’s the way we navigate, through the space architecture forms — the social spaces we interact in and our human behavior is sort of determined by it” Tajima said.

She said she also used the idea of refusal and how it is dealt with in these sorts of spaces, exploring the different metaphorical modes of being and becoming in her work. Tajima references Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” and how the characters refuse to take on a prescribed lifestyle and instead take on different roles or routes.

“[Slacker’s] very Austin but a type of idea I’ve been working with in previous shows, a painting refusing to be only a painting,” Tajima said.

Many of the visual references in Tajima’s work are from around the campus and city, said Aimee Chang, manager of public programs at the Blanton. Chang said Tajima used images of books from the PCL website, the stylized word ‘Detour’ from Linklater’s website and created posters with imagery inspired by the history of the Austin Film Society.

Chang said art opens up the possibilities of a lot of different things while not having single answers, and this show does this in particular with its hybrid pieces. It opens up possibilities for people, she said.

It’s especially interesting how she incorporates video, performance and painting into her exhibit, said studio art senior Chantal Wnuk. Wnuk said she is excited to see how the entire exhibit comes together.

Tajima said she hopes to encourage people to look at her exhibit and think about the ideas behind it, and that it sparks something in their minds or imagination.

The UT Visual Arts Center announced Monday that New York artist Mika Tajima will spend three weeks on campus in the Artist-in-Residence program this semester.

Tajima, who currently lives in New York, manipulates multiple media in her modernist work. Tajima’s sculptures, paintings and other visual creations have been displayed in museums across the U.S., as well as the South London Gallery. Her work with each media is combined to create art installations that surround viewers as they walk through the display.

“You walk in and you’re not really sure if you’re behind the scenes on the set of a play or in another world,” said Calandra Childers, public relations manager for the Seattle Art Museum, where other projects by Tajima have been on display since July. “People have been spending a lot of time in the exhibit and are really excited to see something this different.”

The work Tajima created for the Visual Arts Center, entitled “The Architect’s Garden”, combines sculpture and projected images inspired by UT and the city of Austin. Tajima is scheduled to be at UT from Aug. 30 until Sept. 15, and her work will remain on display on campus throughout the fall semester.

Jade Walker, Visual Arts Center director, said she and other program directors have been interested in bringing Tajima’s work to UT for some time.

Aimee Chang, Manager of Public Programs at the Blanton Museum of Art, is curating the Tajima display at the Visual Arts Center and said she has followed the artist’s work since 2006. Chang said she loves the way Tajima incorporates geometric extraction with physical movement taking place in her created space.

“I’m very interested in spaces that are activated and art that can reach out and interact with people,” Chang said. “A lot of her installations are usually spaces where things happen — spaces that are art in themselves but also serve another activity.”

Chang said Tajima’s focus for “The Architect’s Garden” was to create a space that could also serve as a classroom where learning and conversation could take place. Walker said this focus will become evident through the programs presented by the Visual Arts Center and the Blanton Museum of Art, which will highlight the exhibit and shed light upon Tajima’s inspiration.

Both organizations are sponsoring an “artist talk” Aug. 30 at the Blanton in which Tajima will discuss her display in depth, Walker said.