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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 produ