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From Horse to Christo
Venue/ 1st Floor, Nam June Paik Art Center
Artist

Douglas Davis, Gregory Battcock, Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, Jud Yalkut, John Godfrey

Opening Hours

  • Mon.–Fri./Sun. | 10am–6pm
  • Sat. | 10am–7pm

** Closed on every 2nd & 4th Monday of the month

About the Exhibition

From Horse to Christo

Titled From Horse to Christo this exhibition gathers together works through which Nam June Paik explored new realms of communication art and acknowledged changes to human environments nurtured by the emergence of new media. Through these works, this exhibition offers an opportunity to consider true communication within evolving media environments in general and today’s internet and smartphone-dominated reality in particular.

In his 1981 essay “From Horse to Christo,” Paik examines how people transmitted information through messengers on horseback in a time when the means of communication and transportation were intertwined. Paik was one of the artists who thought that development of information technology will change human environment and these change will have an effect on the way of how people communicate. He comments on the changes brought about by the new media environment established by the emergence of television; and foreseeing the age of new technologies after TV and video, he also emphasized on psychic power, like telepathy, a genuine means of communication.

This essay exposes Paik’s specific use of terminology and concepts. His use of language was so unique that his friends and fellow artists coined the term “Paikish.” Paikish mainly consisted of mixing languages from many countries. Not only a symbolic reference to the various cultures Paik had passed through, Paikish was also an articulation of how the artist’s philosophy was not necessarily to seek the perfect reception of messages. He suggested that ‘noise’ occurred in two-way communication, and mistranslation was also a way of delivering messages. Within this system, Paik gave equal importance to both the role of sender and that of the receiver.

Drawing from Paik’s unique terminology, this exhibition proposes three approaches to exploring the issues inherent to media and communication:
Artists and Works
Mal, Maeul, Maeum*
  • Nam June Paik, Untitled,
    ink on paper, undated
    Paik presented Shuya Abe, his engineer-collaborator, with a drawing composed of two sheets, on each of which two of the four strokes of the Chinese character 心 (heart) were written. Abe helped Paik with the technical realization of many of Paik’s works and developed “Paik-Abe Video Synthesizer” in 1970. Paik called Abe “the greatest doctor in the world” and believed Abe to be a person with whom he could communicate even in the most serious situation. In that this work is complete only when the two sheets are overlapped with each other, it exquisitely represents what their relationship was like.
  • Nam June Paik, Key to the Highway (Rosetta Stone),
    relief etching and, screen print, 1995
    Paik realized his idea of “electronic superhighway” in the shape of the Rosetta Stone. The inscription on the Rosetta Stone was written, in three languages. Key to the Highway is composed of a video drawing in the upper part, the description of Paik’s artistic career in many languages in the middle part, and images excerpted from his videos in the lower part. In particular, in the middle part, Paik explains on what occasion he turned from music to video art, how he participated in the Fluxus art movement, and the relationship with other artists in five languages — a great epitome of how and in what direction his art developed.
  • Nam June Paik, Elephant Cart,
    mixed media, 1999-2001
    Elephant Cart is composed of a wooden elephant, a Buddha and a red cart filled with stacks of TV sets, radios, gramophone speakers, etc. Each of the elephant’s four legs is placed on a four-wheeled dolly and the Buddha sitting on a plastic chair is holding an Adidas white-and-yellow umbrella. The elephant is tethered with red electric cords to the cart and the viewers can watch a soccer game played by elephants on the antique TV sets on the cart. The cart filled with TV sets and radios would move because it is attached to the elephant on the dollies, which has some analogy to the process of information spreading. In this age of speed when everything is rapidly changing, the combination of objects of the past and new media makes you not only look back on the past, but also reconsider how communication is working today.
  • Nam June Paik, The Rehabilitation of Genghis-Khan,
    mixed media, 1993
    This 20th century’s Genghis-Khan is riding a bicycle instead of a horse, wearing a diving helmet, having a gas-pump body and arms made of plastic tubes. The rack on the rear of the bike is loaded with TV monitors, inside which neon signs and letters are shining. The neon signs suggest the possibility that complex information would be abridged and delivered through the electronic highway. Here, Paik emphasized that the past when people were able to obtain power and rule the world using traffic and means of transportation had given way to the age of a new paradigm characterized by the development of software using broadband communication.
  • Nam June paik, Burma Chest,
    mixed media, 1990
    This is a Myanmar-style chest with a drawer in the upper part and another two-drawer unit in the lower part. The former contains eight small monitors displaying images and two projectors on both sides that respectively show a female nude and Charlotte Moorman’s performance, while the latter contains various ornaments, drawings, photographs, and so on. These drawers of the chest not only have their own secret story, but also are the reservoir of stories to release them to other people.
Electronic Moon
  • Nam June paik, Participation TV,
    manipulated TV, microphone, 1968(1998)
    This interactive piece converts the acoustic signal that the viewer sends using a microphone to visual signs that move quickly and dizzily along the X and Y axes on the screen of the manipulated TV. By changing the inner circuit, Paik showed for the first time that TV is not a one-way medium but that there are various ways to manipulate at will and communicate with it.
  • Nam June Paik, Nixon TV,
    manipulated TV, magnet coil, 1965(2002)
    This is composed of a pair of monitors on which the broadcast image of the former American president Nixon is distorted in every eight minutes when electricity is sent through the magnet coil. Nixon failed in his presidential campaign because of his unsuccessful use of media in the TV debate with John F. Kennedy. This made Paik pay attention to the influence of media, inspiring him to create Nixon TV.
  • Nam June Paik, x is y, y is x,
    drawing on newspaper, 1974
    Paik created this drawing on the New York Times pages of the TV guide for WNET
    TV’s broadcasting of Global Groove and the advertisement of the video art program. He put speech bubbles to his photographs on the pages 70 and 71, respectively showing the advertisement and the TV guide, and wrote “x is y” and “y is x” in them. In the middle of the two pages, he also drew a square reminiscent of TV. The advertisement of Global Groove described video art as something to create a new experience, which is interesting in that video art was regarded as one of TV programs, giving a hint of the atmosphere of the 1970s when the audience of video art and TV programs was not yet divided.
  • Nam June Paik, Paul Garrin, Communication Reel #3
    video, color, silent, 32min 38sec, 1989
    Employing a masking technique, this work divides various scenes from Selling of New York, a work dealing with communication issues, from the work transforming the contents of television with magnetic fields, and so on, into the four-segment scene and divide it again. The images divided from colorful scenes seem to suggest the attributes of constantly produced information.
  • Nam June Paik, TV Clock,
    24 manipulated color televisions, 1978(1991)
    This is one of Paik’s earlier TV installation works. By changing the function of the TV with only simple manipulation, Paik successfully showed the properties of the new media. This work, composed of twenty-four TV monitors, visualizes the twenty-four hour cycle with variably inclined lines on the screens that are produced through the removal of the vertical deflecting device for a cathode-ray tube. The twenty-four monitors give the viewer a sense of the passage of a day.
  • Nam June Paik, Candle TV,
    candle, vintage TV case, 1975
    A candle is lit in a vintage television box. The light symbolizes the beginning of human civilization and Paik said that every light source is like information. In this work, he drew parallels between the TV and the beginning of a new civilization.
  • Nam June Paik, TV Buddha,
    TV, closed-circuit camera, Bronze statue, 1974(2002)
    A Buddha statue is positioned in front of a TV and a closed-circuit camera records him in real-time, transmitting it to the monitor. The Buddha in meditation is watching an image of himself represented on the monitor. This monumental work was first shown in Paik’s solo exhibition at Galeria Bonino. By interpreting contemporary life in the new media environment in terms of the traditional image of Buddha, Paik makes the viewer reflect on the light and darkness caused by technological development.
  • Nam June Paik, Jud Yalkut, Electronic Moon no.2,
    b&w/color, sound, 4min 52sec, 1966-1972
    This ‘video-film’ begins with black and white images of the dim light of the moon reflected on water, along with the atmospheric accompaniment of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The wavering surface of water looks like a TV monitor on which electronic lines are flowing. These black and white images are then changed into colorful images of the moon turning into artificial light which Paik created by manipulating scanning lines of the television screen. Paik and Yalkut presented various images of the moon, using conventional expressions relating to the moon, such as a human face, a woman’s breast, and so on.
  • Nam June Paik, Rabbit Inhabits the Moon,
    wooden statue, TV, 1996
    In Moon is the Oldest TV, Paik compared the rich possibility of the TV as an information medium to the moon that lights up the night sky. Rabbit Inhabits the Moon, composed of a TV monitor and a wooden rabbit watching it, is one of his many works that interpret the moon and the TV as an information medium.
Video Common Market
  • Nam June Paik , John J. Godfrey, Global Groove,
    color, sound, 28min 30sec, 1973
    Produced in cooperation with WNET, and aired first on January 30, 1974, Global Groove is Paik’s representative video work that puts together a series of dance and music scenes from various cultures. Beginning with Paik’s introductory 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,” this video presents a counterpoint of rock ‘n’ roll and a drum sound played by female Navajo Indians and a collision between the Korean fan dance and a tap dance rhythm. By putting together heterogeneous and opposing elements, Paik aimed to create a complex cultural map that would transcend national borders, in anticipation of the coming globalization that would be brought about by the TV.
  • Nam June Paik, Suite 212,
    color, sound, 30min 23sec, 1975(1977)
    Suite 212, one of the experimental projects of WNET, was directed by Paik and produced by many collaborators including Douglas Davis, Jud Yalkut, Shigeko Kubota, Shirley Clarke, Fred Barzyk, and so on. This series, consisting of thirty videos, was broadcasted for three to eight minutes in the late night schedule of WNET. 212 is the area code for the borough of Manhattan in New York. Produced using a video synthesizer, each piece from the series looks more like a music video for its rapidly-changing collage accompanied by cheerful sound. It presents Paik’s personal interpretation of the multiculturalism of the huge international city of New York.
  • Nam June Paik, Gregory Battcock, You Can’t Lick Stamps in China,
    color, sound, 28min 34sec, 1978
    As one of WNET projects, Paik planned the series titled Visa in which artists would visit and explore various cities in Vietnam, China, New York, Moscow, etc. with a video camera. You Can’t Lick Stamps in China is a video which Paik himself produced, along with Media Shuttle: Moscow/New York. In this video, a critic Gregory Battcock and three fellow traveler’s who returned from a travel to China are talking about their travel experiences watching the video shot during the trip. The small episodes in their travel show that the differences in the views on other cultures are bigger than the differences in the cultures themselves. Paik said that in this series, he intended to pick up the cultural conflicts that occur on the subconscious level of people through the medium of video, rather than investigate the culture of each country.
  • Nam June Paik, Untitled-Blaupunkt,
    mixed media, 1984
    It is a work with an image of a person who seems to talk inside a television set. Blaupunkt is a famous German audio company. This work reflects Paik’s idea to change television, a one-way medium to a two-way communication medium.
  • Nam June Paik, Wrap Around the World,
    color, sound, 42min 19sec, 1988
    Beginning with participating in Documenta 6 Satellite Telecast in Kassel in 1977 and continuing with Good Morning Mr. Orwell (1984) and Bye Bye Kipling (1986), Paik presented his fourth satellite project titled Wrap Around the World on September 10, 1988. In association with broadcasters in over ten countries around the world, Paik coordinated a transcontinental video performance in which David Bowie performed with La La La Human Steps, and Samulnori (a Korean traditional percussion quartet) was played with a background of Paik’s piece titled The More, The Better. With this live satellite show composed of a collage of Pop musicians and avant-garde artists, Paik conveyed the message of transnational harmony all over the world.
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