Having parsed countless music videos, appearances on cooking and game shows, live concert broadcasts, and (swiftly deleted) Instagram posts, Australasian multimedia collage duo Tzechar presents MADE VANITAS, a video meditation on boy band BigBang, the world’s most successful K-pop group. As Tzechar puts it, “This work is about the state of the world as seen through the lens of pop culture, via the medium that is the microcosm of K-pop, as embodied by BigBang.” When pressed further, Tzechar admitted to unambiguous fandom. “BigBang is the most interesting boy band in the world and represents, among many other things, the development of personal and artistic egos in an environment that discourages it. It is our wish that they overcome themselves and bloom into the best artists they can be. We feel that they can be guided toward a more efficient understanding of the long and short of it all. They are worthy human beings, and thus we love them.”
What, one might ask, does it mean to guide a group of studio-engineered celebrities toward a “more efficient understanding” of the world? Tzechar seems strangely altruistic; the duo treats the members of BigBang as real, lovable people and artists as much as manipulable images. Yet Tzechar is also a savvy critic and pulls no punches in its satire. As MADE VANITAS makes clear, personal vanity and public persona interact in unpredictable, funny, and mildly tragic ways in the K-pop industry. Tzechar has reanimated BigBang as a contemporary Vanitas image, repurposing the group’s voices, moves, and allure in the service of a portrait that is shot through with glamour’s pleasures, pressures, and ultimate instability.