Bringing complexity and sophistication to her deconstruction and appropriation of popular texts, Rea Tajiri decodes the images and soundtracks of Hollywood cinema and mass media as a strategy of cultural analysis. Fragmenting and rereading the vernacular of pop cultural narratives, she deciphers their embedded meanings to expose how history and memory are rewritten through media representation.
Tajiri often focuses her inquiry on the representation of Asians and Asian-Americans in popular media. In Off Limits (1988), she critiques Hollywood's portrayal of the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people, juxtaposing fragments from Easy Rider with her own text to give voice to a Vietnamese character. In History and Memory (1990), Tajiri examines the construction of history and the manipulation of collective memory through a powerful pastiche of personal reminiscences and mass media images of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
In The Hitchcock Trilogy (1987), she constructs layered "meta-narratives" by decontextualizing and recasting Bernard Hermann's dramatic scores. Inserting her subjective voice into cinematic and television narratives, inscribing stories within stories, Tajiri re-tells the myths of mass culture to reclaim memory and history.
In recent years, Tajiri has turned her focus from video to narrative filmmaking. Her first feature film, Strawberry Fields, was theatrically released in 1998. Strawberry Fields received its European premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in 1997. That same year it won Grand Prix at the Fukuoka Asian Film Festival.
Tajiri was born in 1958. She received a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and is the recipient of grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and Art Matters, Inc., as well as a Visual Arts Fellowship and a Media Production Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her works have been exhibited at festivals and institutions including Artists Space, New York; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; 4th International Festival of Video and Television, Montbeliard, France; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Berlin Film Festival; the Rotterdam International Film Festival; the New York Video Festival; American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles; Asian Cinevision Video Festival, New York; and the 1989 and 1991 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial.
Tajiri lives in New York.