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2019 Nam June Paik Exhibition: Nam June Paik Media ‘n’ Mediea
Period/ 2019.02.16(Sat) ~ 2020.02.20(Thu)
Venue/ Nam June Paik Art Center Exhibition Hall 1
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
■ Overview
Period
February 16 (Sat), 2019 to February 20 (Thu), 2020
Venue
Nam June Paik Art Center Exhibition Hall 1
Curator
Lee Chae-yeong (curator at Nam June Paik Art Center)
Participating artist
Nam June Paik (16 works)

Host/ organizer
Nam June Paik Art Center and Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
■ Introduction
Nam June Paik Art Center (Director: Jin Suk Suh) is holding the 2019 Nam June Paik exhibition under the title <Nam June Paik Media ‘n’ Mediea> from February 16, 2019 to February 20, 2020. The title was inspired by “video, videa, and videology”, the terms coined by Paik to discuss the ontology of video art. The exhibition <Nam June Paik Media ‘n’ Mediea> explores the messages of Nam June Paik’s media, which keenly captures the society of his time and envisages a new future through artistic intervention in technology, thus remaining relevant to this day. In this way, the exhibition presents the artistic goals that he strove to reach through his experiments with media, which opened a new horizon for arts with videos.

“Like McLuhan say, we are antenna for changing society. But not only antenna 〔…〕 My job is to see how establishment is working and to look for little holes where I can get my fingers in and tear away walls.” (Nam June Paik) Calvin Thomkins, “Video Visionary”, The New Yorker, May 5, 1975, p. 79.

The exhibition, that features the major collection of the Nam June Paik Art Center, evolves around <Global Groove> (1973), Paik’s work that he referred to as “a kind of imaginary video landscape that anticipates what is going to happen when all the countries in the world become interconnected via cable television.” The video aired by WGBH, a public radio station located in Boston, Massachusetts, gives a glimpse into his vision of a world where video would serve as a medium promoting the mutual understanding of different cultures even before the advent of satellite broadcasting and Internet communication technologies. In other words, Paik made a collage of songs and dances around the world, envisaging the future in which cultures would spread through a “video common market,” as if foreseeing the changes that would be brought by YouTube in the present day. Paik continued his artistic pursuit in the international socio-political environment of the late 20th century, filled with the tension of the Cold War after the two World Wars and Vietnam War, and dreamed of a future society where world peace would be attained through communication, or, as critic Irmelin Lebeer noted, “a transparent society after World War II, a society in solidarity on the basis of international mutual understanding, that is, without wars.”

The exhibition presents the multi-phased experiments with the television and artistic explorations performed by Paik, a “global man,” that correspond with his great vision embodied by electronic media. <Nixon TV> that first greets audiences as they enter the exhibition hall is part of the media analysis of the artist who perceived the television as a means of two-way communication and steadily experimented with it. The electric currents flowing on TV monitors distort the facial images of former US president Richard Nixon and create comical images from it. Next to it is the footage of Paik’s solo exhibition <Electronic Art II> held in 1968 that features his work <Caged McLuhan>. In this work, the variation of the face of the media theorist Marshall McLuhan hints at the complementary relationship between Paik and McLuhan who provided an insightful analysis of media in his book <<Understanding Media>>. The work also helps understand the messages of the media of Paik who sought two-way variations of the television through his artistic intervention, rather than use it as a one-way medium, in connection with McLuhan’s concept of “media as messages”.

The main space of the exhibition hall is reminiscent of a huge living room, designed with “a future video landscape” that Paik creamed of in mind. Sitting on a large bench placed in this space, audiences can see <Fontainebleau>, a media painting in which cathode ray tubes replace oil paintings on their left, as well as <Swiss Clock>, that shows an immaterial, non-linear time on its both sides. In front of them, <Global Groove> is screened through the multivision and on both sides of it are <Charlie Chaplin> and <Bob Hope>. In a corner room, <Candle TV>, Paik’s work about light as the first medium that gave birth to human civilization. In this space reminiscent of today’s daily living space surrounded by household AI systems and screens that can be accessed at any time, audiences understand how media, such as light, film, electricity, radio, radio waves and television have changed the landscape of human lives.

Before leaving the exhibition hall, the audience have a chance to explore Paik’s vision of a futuristic landscape to be brought by global, mutual communication through “electronic highways,” appreciating his first satellite video experiment <Documenta 6 Satellite Telecast> and <The Rehabilitation of Genghis-Khan>. It is expected that this exhibition will provide an opportunity to reflect on the messages of media for the present and future of human lives in light of the artistic insights of Paik, a “media visionary,” in this era where technology and media are rapidly changing the environment and mode of our everyday life more than ever.
■ Exhibits
1. <TV Garden>, 1974/2002, TVs, live plants, amplifiers, speakers, 1-channel video, color, sound, 28 min., 30 sec., variable size
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
The work features a garden where televisions lie like blooming flowers along with lush live plants. The monitors show a video work titled <Global Groove>, which is a series of cheerful and colorful sequences of music and dance from various countries and of different genres edited in the artist’s typical style. Without a coherent narrative to combine the disparate images, the video invites audiences to view it in a simple and intuitive manner. In this garden, the presence of TV monitors is emphasized by the unusual angles at which they are placed. This leads viewers to look down at the TVs that are facing upwards or lying on the side slantingly and to watch several monitors at the same time rather than concentrate on one. A natural environment artificially created and maintained in the interior space of a museum and the television symbolizing technology, which is considered opposite to nature, are brought together and form an organic space. The electronic images coming from the TV monitors flow through the leaves to various rhythms, to become part of the ecosystem. In this way, Paik harmonizes the stimuli of the pixels that ceaselessly change and the green energy of natural objects.
2. <Nixon TV>, 1965/2002, 2 TV monitors, coil, signal generator, amplifier, condenser, timer, 1-channel video, color, silent, variable size
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
The work is one of Paik’s earliest experimental installation works using televisions. Signals from the generator are amplified by the amp and electric currents flow through the coils installed on the monitors. The currents flow alternatively through the two monitors controlled by switches, distorting the electric beams on them. This contorts the face of former US president Richard Nixon, shown on the monitors, and creates comical images from it. Nixon failed to effectively use media in a TV debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960, which greatly affected his loss in the election. Paik focuses on the influence of media in this work.
3. Highlights of Paik’s solo exhibition <Electronic Art II> held at Galeria Bonino, 1968, 3 min. 34 sec.
Paik held four solo exhibitions entitled <Electronic Art>, starting from 1965, at Galeria Bonino in New York. In these exhibitions, Paik presents a video aesthetics of a different context from that of the single channel videos aired by broadcasting stations. The video sketches the <Electronic Art II> exhibition of 1968, that featured various experimental TV installations and video works. One of his works included in the video is <Caged McLuhan> that was created with the same mechanism as <Nixon TV>. The variation of the face of the media theorist Marshall McLuhan featured in this work hints at the complementary relationship between Paik and McLuhan, who provided an insightful analysis of media in his book <<Understanding Media>>. The work also helps understand the message of the media of Paik, who sought two-way variations of the television through his artistic intervention, rather than use it as a one-way medium, in connection with McLuhan’s concept of “media as messages”.
4. <TV Clock>, 1963–1977/1991, 24 manipulated TVs, variable size
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Consisting of 24 TV monitors, the work is one of Paik’s early TV installation works. The 24 monitors symbolize the 24 hours of a day, with each of them showing lines of different inclinations, expressing different times. Paik removed the vertical inducement device of the tube in the television to create these images, which are condensed into single electric beams and help visualize time. Made up of 24 color TV monitors, the work invites viewers to visually sense the daily passage of time in a peaceful, meditative mood.
5. <Charlie Chaplin>, 2001, 4 CRT TVs, 1 LCD monitor, 4 radio cases, 2 bulbs, 1-channel video, color, silent, 185 x 152 x 56 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Comic actor and movie director Charlie Chaplin steadily addressed the issues of the recovery of humanity in the age of materialism in his films such as <The Gold Rush>, <Modern Times> and <The Great Dictator>. Particularly, in his iconic work <Modern Times>, Chaplin criticizes the loss of humanity in the modern society dominated by machine civilization and capitalism with his typical, lyrical yet humorous soul. Paik, in this work, represented the image of Chaplin in a robot made up of several video works, which is an only natural way for the two artists to meet, given that Paik also delved into the issue of the harmony of humanity and technology as well as that of humanized technology. The robot has a body consisting of a vintage monitor, old televisions and radios, while bulbs reminiscent of gas lamps in Chaplin’s movies function as its hands. The robot gives an antique impression, arousing nostalgia for the age of black and white films. Sequences extracted from Chaplin’s movies and edited by Paik are shown in the five monitors.
6. <Global Groove>, 1973, 1-channel video, color, sound, 29 min 39 sec
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》 2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Produced in cooperation with WNET, a public television station serving the New York metropolitan area, and aired first on January 30, 1974, Paik’s representative video work <Global Groove>, as its title suggests, features a series of music and dance sequences from various cultures. In this video, which begins with the author’s statement that “this is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow when you will be able to switch on any TV station on the earth and TV guides will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book,” rock music and the drum sounds played by Navajo women correspond with each other and the traditional Korean fan dance overlaps with tap dance. Also, as represented in the combination of Beethoven’s <Moonlight Sonata> and Stockhausen’s electronic music, culturally opposing elements are given equal status and coexist in this video. Paik, by putting together such heterogeneous and conflicting elements, seeks to present a new complex cultural landscape with no national borders based on the prospect of a future globalization through TV.
7. <Bob Hope>, 2001, 2 CRT TVs, 3 LCD monitors, radios and CRT TV cases, 1-channel video, color, silent, 141 x 116 x 33 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Bob Hope was an American stand-up comedian, actor, singer, dancer and writer, who gained huge popularity in the 20th century. He was an all-around entertainer who actively appeared in many radio and television shows, movies and theaters. Paik made a number of works featuring celebrities including Humphrey Bogart, David Bowie, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe, as well as Hope, which reflects his interest in the impact of mass media, the consumption of images by media, and the boundary between high art and popular art since the 1970s. In 1984, when Hope appeared in a TV show produced by Cable Soho, a group of artists based in New York, he was asked about video art and Paik by artist Jaime Davidovich who broke into a press conference taking place there. At that time, Hope had no idea about what video art was and who Paik was, but he expressed his anticipation for the future of the television to be made by experimental artists and his wish to be part of the future. As if to respond to his wish, Paik represented Bob Hope, who was a symbol of the then American broadcasting culture, with a robot made up of TV monitors through which his past and future are shown at the same time.
8. <Swiss Clock>, 1988, CCTV camera, clock, 3 TV monitors, tripod, variable size
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
The movement of the pendulum of a striking clock is captured by a CCTV camera and then shown through three monitors in real time. The monitors facing three different directions show the movement of the same pendulum at three different angles. In this way, the work represents the cyclical relationship between images and reality in a mechanism consisting of the CCTV camera and the television. It also visualizes the meanings of an abstract object, that is, the passage of time, by showing the motion of the clock in this manner. In this sense, it is one of Paik’s works that reflect his interest in the concept of non-linear time.
9. <Fontainebleau>, 1988, 20 Quasar color monitors, metal grid, gold-painted wooden frame, 2-channel video, color, silent, 195 x 235 x 4 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Twenty color monitors are arranged within a splendid, antique wooden frame. These 2-channel TV monitors incessantly show abstract images that are rapidly changing. The work seems to have been titled after the Fontainebleau castle in France, which was a luxurious residence of French monarchs, and even Napoleon, and accommodates spaces where paintings are hung side by side on the walls, which became the precursor of modern galleries. Particularly, the gallery of Francis I displays paintings set in magnificent gold frames. The work embodies Paik’s forecast that the cathode ray tubes (CRT) would replace canvas as collage technique replaced oil painting.
10. <Zen for Film>, 1964, 16 mm film projector, film
An empty film is spinning in a projector. When the light beam is cast through it, the dust and scratches of the film are projected onto the screen. By screening a film containing nothing, the work creates undetermined, accidental situations. The work can be seen as Paik’s interpretation of John Cage’s <4′ 33″> (1952) that incorporated noise and silence into music by playing nothing.
11. Peter Moore, <Nam June Paik’s “Zen for Film” performed as part of New Cinema Festival I at Filmmakers’ Cinematheque, New York>, 1964, black and white photography, 40 x 59.5 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Paik gave a performance of his work <Zen for Film> standing in front of a running projector during the New Cinema Festival I held at Filmmakers’ Cinematheque in 1964, as shown in this photograph taken by Peter Moore. The installation work of the same title features an empty film that has not been exposed to light running through a projector: when the light passes through the film, the scratches and dust on the film are screened. Therefore, when the viewer stands in front of the projector, their shape and movement become part of the work.
12. <I Wrote it in Tokyo in 1954>, 1994, antique TV case, 10 inch color CRT TV, mini CCTV camera, incandescent light bulb, Reuge 144-note music box, 49 x 48 x 47 cm
This work is based on a tune that Paik composed during his early years in university. The tune consists of one movement with 144 notes. He used the tune for this 1994 work in which the music is played by an antique musical instrument made in the 18th century and then by the TV set produced in the 1950s. The monitor shows the vague images of the mechanism of a revolving music box. However, this is not an actual mechanical device, but only the image captured by a camera installed in the television and projected in real time. Paik combined modern electronic images with the old but familiar television and music box, to create an object where surrealism, poetry, and some degree of exaggeration are mixed up. The past, the present, and the future that he sought to present through his work are shown on the one monitor.
13. <Candle TV>, 1975/1999, candle, TV case, 34 x 36 x 41 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
A lit candle is shining inside an old-fashioned TV case. Light symbolizes the dawn of human civilization, as Paik once said that “the source of light is the same as that of information. In this work, the television is a symbol of the beginning of a new civilization.
14. <The Rehabilitation of Genghis-Khan>, 1993, TV monitor, 10 TV cases, neon tube, bicycle, diving helmet, fuel dispenser, plastic pipes, clothes, 1-channel video, color, silent, 217 x 110 x 211 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
This work, a visual representation of the replacement of the Silk Road that connected the East and the West by broadband electronic highways, was exhibited in the German Hall during the 1993 Venice Biennale. This Genghis-Khan of the 20th century is riding a bicycle instead of a horse, wearing a diving helmet instead of armor. His body is made up of a steel fuel dispenser, with plastic pipe arms. His bike is loaded with TV cases, which are filled with symbols and characters illuminated by neon lights. The neon symbols suggest the possibility that intricate information would be condensed and transferred through electronic highways. The video displayed on the TVs features various masking techniques, transforming images from a bottle to a pyramid, from a ceramic vessel to a kettle, and so on, while abstract geometrical patterns are constantly changing from one to another. In a series of TV robots created by Paik, including <Marco Polo>, <Tangun as a Scythian King>, <Alexander the Great >, as well as this work, Paik emphasized his vision for a future with a new paradigm that would come with the advancement of software using broadband communication, breaking away from the past where those controlling transportation took power and dominated others.
15. <Key to the Highway (Rosetta Stone)>, 1995, print on copper plate, 86 x 71 cm
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Paik incorporated the concept of “electronic highways”, of which he was advocate, into this work, borrowing the shape of the Rosetta Stone, discovered in a village named Rosetta by Napoleon’s army during his expedition to Egypt. The Rosetta Stone is inscribed with the decrees promulgated by the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt from BC 305 to BC 30 in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic Egyptian, and ancient Greek. Paik’s version of the Rosetta Stone carries drawings of videos on the top, the artist’s artistic career in various languages in the middle, and images excerpted from his video work at the bottom. His career, profiled in the middle part, explains how his interest moved from music to video art, how he started to participate in the Fluxus art movement, his relationships with other artists who exchanged inspiration with one another in Korean, English, French, German, and Japanese, providing a short, clear summary of the developmental stages and directions of Paik’s artistic pursuit.
16. Joseph Beuys, Douglas Davis, and Nam June Paik, <Documenta 6 Satellite Telecast>, 1977, color, sound, 29 min 11 sec
Documenta, held every five years in Kassel, Germany, is a very important contemporary art exhibition. Documenta 6, which took place in 1977, was marked by the world’s first broadcasting of artists’ performances through the satellite communication network. Paik, Joseph Beuys and Douglas Davis participated in the project and it was aired to 25 countries. During the exhibition, Paik, along with Charlotte Moorman, presented his works <TV Bra>, <TV Cello>, <TV Buddha>, and <TV Bed>, giving a performance combining music, performing arts, video sculpture and the television. Paik suggested that he could communicate with the audience, as they were connected through the satellite network. In the same place, Joseph Beuys introduced a utopian concept of “social sculptor” to the audience, which was very important to understand his conceptual art. Meanwhile, Douglas Davis performed <The Last Nine Minutes> in Caracas, Venezuela. He stressed the temporal/spatial distance between him and the audience by tapping the television monitor placed between them.
17. <TV Fish (Video Fish)>, 1975/1997, 24 TVs, 24 fish tanks, live fish, 3-channel video, color, silent
2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》 2019 백남준展 《백남준 미디어 'n' 미데아》
Twenty-four televisions are placed behind 24 fish tanks standing in a row. Live fishes are swimming inside the tanks while a dancing Merce Cunningham, fish swimming in the sea, and a flying airplane are shown on the TV monitors. Through the superimposition of the fish tanks and the monitors, live fish and the ones in the video come into the same spatiotemporal realm; Cunningham dances with the fish; the fish swim in the sky; and the airplane flies in the sea. The viewer, in the visual mechanism where the fish tanks become the monitors and vice versa, are invited to look at the TV monitors from a new perspective and perceive the television monitor as a frame that cuts out what is to be shown from the surroundings. Dealing with the relationship between realities and representations with the frame of the television in the middle. Paik often incorporated natural elements into his works. He stressed the coexistence and correspondence between technology and nature, rather than emphasize the differences between them, contrasting the “liveliness” of TV images and “aliveness” of real nature.
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