This is Tapanga Jansen, a San Antonio video and social networking artist.
I’m a big fan of her idiosyncratic, deliberately lo-fi, subversively sophisticated short videos, as well as her penchant for speaking in all LOLCats-style pidgin.
Here’s the first video of Tapanga’s I saw, “Where’s Lori?” (2010)
As you can see, Tapanga works in a customer service call center with Holly, a chirpy doll’s head, a voiceless customer service operator named Doretha, pretentious irritant Blair (whose band Lachrymosis has its own myspace page btw) and Stacey, a heinous, condescending bowhead boss. Tapanga’s universe is partially a workplace comedy, but subverted entirely via the POV of the crazy cat lady spinster freak who’s so often the butt of workplace comedy. In this metaverse, the 40something cat lady is the unsinkable hero and emotional center.
Not all of Tapanga’s pieces are as long as “Where’s Lori,” with some videos focusing on the Tapanga aesthetic rather than narrative twists. Note her “July Forf 2011” (2011)
The visual texture of Tapanga Jansen’s films fascinates, suggesting as it does a non-linear video process; you can almost tell how she’s putting it together… but not quite. I like the juxtaposition of the dizzier, slightly dated graphic elements — like the trippy GIFs – and Jansen’s arresting, slightly monstrous photography montage character design. Jansen’s expanding cast of oppressed, bizarre or “stupids” characters assail her and us like some digital-age Hogarth lithographs, particularly in the “Customer Service with Doretha” series (2011)
I also like the semi-episodic format, fast edits and the consistent, stark yet chirpy intro/outro.
The codified dialogue is genius, a mix of asinine “you stupids,” corporate-speak, or the utterly absurd, with most of the supporting characters exhibiting a John Waters-like codified delivery, particularly Blair’s nasal scowl of a voice.
One of the reason Tapanga and co. resonate with me is their barely suppressable rage. Anybody who’s worked in a service industry — anybody who feels trampled and let down and as though they’re drained by their dayjob — can empathize.
Also, the fact that she tends to post videos to Facebook during the workday is genius. They’re short, punchy, mad, and weirdly sympathetic. They have impact. The videos of Tapanga Jansen don’t look or sound like anything else that’ll flit past your eyeballs all day. Also, she’s canny in using the omnipresent social networking site a way to give herself more presence and dimension; it’s always interesting to note her comments; her phonetic spellings of some words alone are enough to crack me up.
All the details matter. A seemingly random bit part character, a “crackhead” named Carmen, maintains an undertone of pathos and an overtone of satirized pathos, of crackhead as comic relief as a trope:
A dead-end job in a vast corporatesphere, where the American struggles of class and gender play themselves out, requires these little bursts of human-made imperfection. The impression is of art made quickly and earnestly with imagination and whatever materials, technologically, Tapanga Jansen finds at hand, or is able to master.
I like her energy and her anger, and her insistence, via her brand-naming, on loving you. Is she being sarcastic about love? I don’t think it’s that simple. Somehow, Tapanga the character doesn’t come off cynical. Tapanga’s both grouchy and hopeful, in her three dimensional world of true peculiarity.
She’s on summer vacay right now, but she tells me she’s got new vids in the works.
For more on Tapanga Jansen:
Friend her on Facebook (she’s a coveted commenter!)
Look at her YouTube channel (check out that background wallpapaer!)
And check out her blog
also by Sarah Fisch
- What Paper Carries: Student Artist Josue Romero on DACA, Art for Change, and Dreams Deferred - September 12th, 2017
- YES (the river knows) - June 19th, 2014
- No Walls: the Expanded Curatorial Practice of Michele Monseau - June 8th, 2014
- Chupacabrona, California (Two: Grad school confidential) - October 2nd, 2012
- Feedback: Sonic Youth’s “The Sprawl.” - September 28th, 2012