Clay Lady Astronauts
The Plexiglas helmets worn by these painted terracotta figures reveal that their traditional poses are reminiscent of futuristic poses, as well. In the present, women can be astronauts, too. These two figures are part of a stop-action video with abstract forest landscapes and pastoral scenes. The video's fantastical drama is enhanced by the Asian instrumentation and theatrical effect of the moving figures with their expressive facial features in close-ups, group wide-angle shots and montages to arouse interest in these animated scholarly ladies-in-waiting. The figures are modeled on early puppets or opera actors, but demonstrate the pervasiveness of everyday commercialism as they wield cell phones, rifles, boom boxes and guitars.
The musical score was composed by L. Roser, a Chinese American multimedia artist, whose Asian-inspired compositions make use of Chinese, Japanese and Indian instrumentation. Further, Roser combines natural ambient sounds—such as sand, water, wind and footsteps—with high-tech urban echoes of cell phones, computers, bicycles and crowds.
The first video sequence of the work explores Chinese Xian caves from where Tang lady figures of the 8th through 11th centuries were excavated. Tang dancers sing into cell phones against a yellow earth drip painting background, providing a metaphor for the intensity and rituals of contemporary life. In the second sequence, glass helmets are added to give these figures a warrior or astronaut persona. These transformed figures represent a cosmic visionary future. The three video sequences are autobiographical since Kuo, as a Chinese American artist, has also awoken from a trance to find new cultural and technological advances juxtaposed with traditional lifestyles. The piece premiered at Flushing Town Hall in 2006.