Remember the feeling of stopping on a highway while the traffic beside you just rushes by? A sense of calmness opposed to the world rapidly moving on?
“The First Stop on the Super Highway” is an international group exhibition that takes as its departure point from Paik’s strategy to always work on the limits – from the very slow to the very fast / either extremely subdued and meditative or incredibly loud, flashy and exaggerated.
Actually why New York made me maximal I don’t know I was more minimal in Germany – maybe because I am more or less anti-anti… Nam June Paik on Edited for Television, WNET/Thirteen in New York, 1975
The main aim of the exhibition is to re-contextualize Nam June Paik’s work in the contemporary and to combine it with some of the most radical and most pared down work of the last four decades. The exhibition negates the idea of hermetic art circles and deliberately combines very different approaches from the last 40 years. Starting with George Brecht’s and La Monte Young’s event scores from 1963, the exhibition continues by also presenting contemporary practices, including work produced by the internet programming tool Flash. Artists that are labeled as Minimal, Avantgarde Cinema, Performance, Internet Art or Fluxus are brought together, connecting different threads and allowing diverse associations. Paik’s main desire was to enlarge communication between the different communities and to link them together, the best way to imagine this is through his idea of the Electronic Super Highway, a concept he developed in 1974 for the Rockefeller Foundation in a text called “Media Planning for the Postindustrial Society – The 21st Century is now only 26 years away”.
For “The First Stop on the Super Highway” various attempts to represent and experiment with the idea of minimal and maximum in contemporary art are explored. Different concepts of ‘attention’ as they emerge in Paik’s work, from his meditative minimal earliest video piece – Button Happening or Video Candle to his full-on video installations or paintings – are interrogated as this exhibition confronts works that operate within the same context but use entirely different modes to negotiate them. From the sixties, the art world has noticeably played with these extremes: paintings and installations got very big; other works got reduced to the max. At times, extremely big installations were used to display extreme reductions. Size and sound became key issues and as they became accentuated, the way they are articulated also became more specific.
Being an autonomous group show, installed in the second floor gallery of the newly opened Nam June Paik Art Center, the exhibition still has diverse links to the Permanent Exhibition on the ground floor. Early works of Nam June Paik, like Zen for Film or Zen for Head, are taken as departure points to look at work from other artists of the time as well as of the present.
The exhibition also displays some unseen work from the collection of the Nam June Paik Art Center. Three Robot sculptures and rarely seen, unusual drawings and paintings made by Nam June Paik in the last years of his life will be on show.
Standing prominently on the street in front of the Nam June Paik Art Center Dennis Oppenheim’s Cones, supersized traffic safety cones, will mark the approach to the art center’s entrance in the manner characteristic of the artist’s use of scale as a means to transform the landscape by merely magnifying the size of an everyday object. The cones will be a new landmark in Yong-in, marking the territory for the arts, attracting attention and making the passer-by stop for a moment even if just to just to continue with a slightly more heightened perception.
The recurring symbols of this exhibition are the line and the point – Stop and Go – featured in works like La Monte Young’s influential 1962 event score Draw a straight line and follow it, Santiago Sierra’s 250 cm line tattooed on 6 paid people, and Taro Shinoda’s huge apparatus that produces a single red line. Pak Sheung Chuen cuts out all the lines separating the frames in a 35mm film and then edits them into a new film. Lawrence Weiner makes his point with Gloss white lacquer sprayed for two minutes at 40 lb pressure directly upon the floor, while Abramovic/Ulay drive for hours in a circle, Robert Breer uses both spray paint lines and dots in his early experimental films and George Brecht’s Event scores always start with a black circle. The Olympic ideal of “Higher, Faster, Stronger” is accelerated by Nam June Paik’s video Lake Placid and brought back to human scale by Xijing Men’s 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Stop and Go.
Nam June Paik , Dennis Oppenheim, La Monte Young, Cory Arcangel, Robert Breer, Xijing Men , Taro Shinoda, Santiago Sierra, Fluxus, George Brecht, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries + Takuji Kogo, Pak Sheung Chuen, Sue Tompkins, Lawrence Weiner, Abramović/Ulay , Joohyun Kim, Jin Ham, Mieko Shiomi