Alert: This exhibit closes on 1/30/07.
The worst place to see an artist’s video may be the window gallery at Artist’s Television Access (ATA) in San Francisco. Although I can recommend Kenneth Lo’s entertaining “Rice Balla Chronicles,” now showing there, I must point out that the video is displayed on a monitor with a bulging screen and poor color adjustment, situated behind a non-pristine window. Also, the sound is either muffled or tinny, depending on which speaker is activated—the one inside the TV, or the lone speaker driver hanging naked in the doorway outside. Under the cascades of vehicular noise on Valencia St., the video soundtrack often disappears.
Lo’s video is a 12-minute edit of material originally prepared for his Berkeley MFA show last year. In part, it’s a fantasy revenge project, a kiss-off to his high school years in Orange County when, as Lo informed me, the jocks bullied him because he was a short, skinny, Asian, and artistic. But it’s also a comedy about social identity, from the perspective of a young Chinese American guy. Basketball is brought into the mix because the artist is a long-time Lakers fan and, growing up, he observed African-American players adopt hip-hop styles as part of their identities.
The video reinvents the 5’7” artist as a basketball phenomenon who once played against Kobe Bryant. The time sequence of the imagined story is a bit confusing, but apparently what you see is Ken Lo at his basketball peak in 1996, before an injury sidelined him for good. The montage includes a hip-hop music sequence, an animation sequence using shadow puppets, and some hand-written inter-titles. The live action features a toy-sized hoop and ball. To accompany the video, Lo created two basketball posters, framed by a Chinese lattice pattern (photo at top).
As recounted in the video, Ken Lo’s athletic skill and moxie made him the talk of the town. Several hot young babes tell the camera they love Ken Lo. A guy in a hoodie and a ball player banter about Ken Lo, giving praise. Ken Lo’s mother speaks from her kitchen to say how popular he is. A basketball coach is interviewed in his office. The only nay-sayer is an old Chinese guy eating in a restaurant, hen’s foot in hand, saying that Ken Lo doesn’t speak Chinese, he dates white women, he’s no good. All the characters are played by the artist himself. He disappears into them, with superb results.
Below are some fuzzy screen shots.