Vita Kari's TikToks will have you questioning reality
The viral artist has mastered online performance art.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
Similar but different: Grace Spelman’s “where’s Pierogi” series on Twitter. —Kate
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For the past few weeks, tens of millions of people have been playing a game. It’s being led by Los Angeles artist Vita Kari, whose recent video series on TikTok has been duping audiences with hyperrealistic printed hands, text, and even dogs.
Each of Vita’s videos start the same way: “The craziest thing about being creative,” they say, appearing to apply eyeliner or otherwise busy themselves with an object. Then they reveal that something in the video that is seemingly very real is actually constructed, marvelously, of paper.
“This isn’t my ear, I printed it out,” they’ll declare, pulling the paper off, to the surprise of everyone in the comments.
“I thought I’ve had it every time but I’m always wrong,” one viewer responded to a recent video. The comment has received over 55,000 likes from similarly confused viewers.
As Vita’s popularity has grown, their videos have only become more elaborate, bending reality in increasingly surprising ways—their background is fake, the text on the video is fake, or the video itself is just a close-up of Vita flipping through pieces of paper recreating a perfect stop-motion of their TikToks. I get tricked every single time.
“I'm a multimedia artist,” Vita tells me over Zoom. “And figuring out how content fits into all of that, and short form video, is a relatively unexplored area.”
Vita, who attended NYU undergrad, is now getting their MFA at Otis. In between, they ran a community art space called Vitawood, with an emphasis on making the art world more accessible. Social media is a new and accessible frontier for art. There are fewer barriers to entry, and TikTok allows people with no prior audience to go viral. Plus, because Vita’s work is participatory, it reaches audiences who may otherwise never step foot in a gallery.
In this interview for paid subscribers, Vita and I talk about using social media to play with reality, how the internet has changed the art world, and my most important question: How are they able to print all that paper???
Going through your work on TikTok, a lot of it involves toying with the audience. Like: “What's real? What's not? What's a joke?” Is that a larger theme in your art?