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Behind the Scenes with Mika Tajima

December 6, 2013

What happens when back stage becomes front stage? At her Bushwick Brooklyn studio, artist Mika Tajima discusses the processes and ideas behind her two installational-performative works Today is Not a Dress Rehearsal (2009) and The Pedestrians (2011). Tajima describes how her fascination with the “immaterial labor” of film production—the constant behind the camera activity that’s not visible in a final film—led her to create a fully crewed, film set in the lobby of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Collaborating with artist Charles Atlas and the New Humans collective, Tajima conceived of Today is Not a Dress Rehearsal (2009) as “production as performance.” A crew of cameramen, audio operators, production assistants, and Tajima herself were all on public view in the museum as they shot philosopher Judith Butler and the amateur public speaking group Golden Gate Toastmasters perform.

For The Pedestrians (2011), Tajima and her collaborators created an even more ambitious project that featured a larger film crew and ten days of performances centered around the theme of walking. At the South London Gallery, a dollying cameraman circled the perimeter of the exhibition space, recording footage of the performers, crew, and viewers that was then live projected back into the space. For Tajima, these hybrid performance productions question conventional distinctions between talent and crew, artist and audience, and public and private space.

Also featuring work from the exhibitions Deal or No Deal (2008), The Double (2008), and The Architect’s Garden (2011) and the ongoing series The Extras (2011).

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Don Edler, John Marton & Wesley Miller. Sound: Nicholas Lindner, Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Design & Graphics: Crux & Open. Artwork: Mika Tajima. Additional Camera & Sound: Jarred Alterman, Howie Chen, John Davis, Jim Granato & Eric Tsai. Thanks: Charles Atlas, Gina Basso, Andrew Bonacina, Judith Butler, Howie Chen, Joon Choi, Anne-Sophie Dinant, Eclipse Cheerleading Squad, Diana Gameros, Ben Gao, Golden Gate Toastmasters, Margot Heller, Vy Le, Carter McRee, Simon Parris, Beau Safken, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Frank Smigiel, John Smith, Kim Smith, South London Gallery, Southwark Volunteer Police Cadets, Alice Theobald & Eric Tsai. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2013. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Lambent Foundation; Toby Devan Lewis; the Dedalus Foundation, Inc., The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas is a filmmaker and video artist who has created numerous works for stage, screen, museum, and television. Atlas is a pioneer in the development of media-dance, a genre in which original performance work is created directly for the camera. Many of Atlas’s works have been collaborations with choreographers, dancers, and performers, including Yvonne Rainer, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Diamanda Galas, John Kelly, and Leigh Bowery. Atlas acted as Consulting Director for “Art in the Twenty-First Century” (Seasons 2 through 5), creating the original opening programs for each hour-long segment of Season 2, as well as supervising the “Stories,” “Loss and Desire,” “Memory,” “Play,” “Protest,” and “Paradox” episodes.

Mika Tajima

Mika Tajima was born in 1975 in Los Angeles, California, and lives and works in New York. Taking international political, social, and economic points of reference as her inspiration, Tajima employs sculpture, painting, installation, and performance in her conceptual practice. She does in-depth research on topics—such as Herman Miller’s Action Office furniture line and the international price of gold—before translating her findings into physical objects that articulate and critique the ways that these things affect human lives.

In the Studio

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