Yoshie Sakai’s ‘Koko’s Love’ at Verge Center for the Arts

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SACRAMENTO — “Koko’s Love: The Technicolor Unfairy Tale Ball,” an original East Asian/Asian American hybrid soap opera series written, produced, directed, and performed by Yoshie Sakai, is “ready for its close-up” through Oct. 28 at Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S St. in Sacramento.

An immersive video installation with a high school dance theme, “Koko’s Love” explores the ongoing saga of one Japanese American family with their overbearing patriarch, Hiroshi, a liquor store owner in South Los Angeles, and his annoying insistence on having a male heir.

Loosely autobiographical, the series re-imagines the melodramatic tropes of TV dramas to challenge the myth of the “model minority” and reveal the guise of superficial “perfection” of being both Asian American and a woman. Sakai felt it was important to write, produce, direct, and act out all the characters of this dark dramedy. Her characters function as avatars that act out responses to contemporary society, negotiating issues of cultural identity and familial and personal relationships and gender roles.

Sakai induces intimate situations between created personalities and the audience by staging videos within installations that are pushed to exaggerated and imaginative levels. Her videos and installations infiltrate the psychological and physical space of the viewer, giving form to a sort of vulnerability – a nervous laughter. For this exhibition, Verge Center for the Arts becomes a stage for the everyday doubts, anxieties, hopes, and daydreams that come from living while challenging the notion of fictitious and non-fictitious storytelling.

“Koko’s Love” originated from the artist’s interest in the quotidian, and since moving back home with her mother, she has been immersed in how her 84-year-old, first-generation Japanese mother entertains herself – by watching hours of East Asian soap operas daily as it’s what “she lives for.” The melodramatic and highly addictive narrative genre of the soap opera fascinates Sakai, not only for its outrageous characters and scenarios, but also for how it touches upon the most fundamental emotions and at times spews familiar life lessons and moral clichés that are highly accessible.

This project was supported, in part, by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.

Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 12 to 5 p .m. Sunday; closed Monday through Wednesday. For more information, call (916) 448-2985 or visit www.vergeart.com.

Sakai, who lives and works in Gardena, studied communication and classics at UCLA; drawing and painting at CSU Long Beach; and painting and video installation at Claremont Graduate University. Visit her website at www.yoshiesakai.com.

Sakai will also be part of a group exhibition, “Totenpass,” at the Visitor Welcome Center in Los Angeles from Oct. 27 to Nov. 10 along with Anthony Bodlovic (curator), Gelare Khoshgozaran, Young Joo Lee, Astri Swendsrud & Quinn Gomez-Heitzeberg, and Eliot Yasumura & Aziz Yonuss. For more information, visit http://visitorwelcomecenter.org/upcoming.html.

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