Random Access is a theme Paik addressed frequently throughtout his practice. As early as 1963, when Paik presented his groundbreaking Exposition of Music Electronic Television, the concept of Random Access was present throughout and was even the title of one of the works. Of the many works Paik presented that were innovative in the way they questioned how viewers could engage with art as well as with information in general, Random Access and Record Shashlick were the most direct presentations of this ambition for a paradigm shift in information retrieval that was led by the viewer and yet arbitrary.
Human beings have not really learned how to structure time-based information in recording and retrieval very well, because it is new. No one says that the Encyclopedia Britannica is boring (…) because you can go to any page of the encyclopedia, to A or B or C or M or X, whereas when you watch videotapes or television, you have to go A, B, C, D, E, F, G. While the comparison is simple, the difference is very big. (…) until electronic information conquers the random access problem.
Nam June Paik 1980
Currently, access to electronic information is no longer determined by a time-based structure thanks to developments in CD and mp3 technology as well as the internet. Now that the ‘random access problem’ described by Paik appears to have been ‘conquered’, revisiting issues such as participation, chance and indeterminism often addressed by Paik’s thinking and work could offer alternative perspectives into the potentialities they entail.
Aiming to develop curatorial strategies in keeping with Paik’s spirit, the Nam June Paik Art Center has attempted to avoid pre-structuring the audience’s experience of the works in presents. Not restricting the audience’s liberty ot access the works randomly and a non-hierarchical non-linear display have been ways to avoid placing emphasis on any particular work or establishing the special status of a masterpiece.
Nam June Paik, Helena Almeida, Nobuyoshi Araki, Clayton Campbell, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Taeyoon Choi, Martha Colburn, Exonemo, Gazebal, Jin-Won Lee (aka Gazaebal), Jiminy, Thomas Hirschhorn, Mirai Jeon, Hee-Seon Kim, Min-Jung Kim, Tammy Kim, Minouk Lim, Bruce Nauman, Yuri Suzuki, Wolf Vostell, Yangachi and others.
The Random and the irrational in everyday experience
Mirai Jeon, Hee-seon Kim, Min-jung Kim, Yuri Suzuki
For Nam June Paik, indeterminacy and nonlinearity transcend both human rationality, and our blind faith in it, ruling our lives and the world. Paik’s Klavier Integral, which was exhibited in his EXPosition of music – Electronic television exhibition in 1963, reveals the nonlinear nature of life through visual shock. By combining various objects from daily life to create different voices, somewhat reminiscent of a Dadaist/Schwitters-collage, Klavier Integral frees the hidden forces of the viewers’ unconscious by dismantling the usual logic of perception and re-combining perceptions into a nonlinear structure. This was something already tried in theatre by Antonin Art명 and other pioneers of the theater of the absurd in an attempt to attain the basic desire and impulses of life. Distanced from their original realities by being ‘distorted,’ Klavier Integral and the actios of the theatre of the absurd, extend beyond ‘representation’ to instead accomplish ‘actualizations’ of the essence of life.
The Klavier integral space is organized to allude to the idea of a house consisting of a basement and a room. Non-serif Situation(2002) by Hee-son kim, where pieces composed for cello are played randomly according to the number of viewers entering the exhibition room, questions our belief in rational control over the unconscious. Mirai Jeon’s controller(2010) – simultaneously control + roller – also addresses this question by appearing to be just the floor, but moving when the viewer steps on it. in the mezzanine space that resembles a domestic room, Yuri Suzuki’s music Kettle(2008) and min-Jung kim’s Breathing Door(2006) repeat the idea of ‘distortions of reality’ by creating a surrealistic scene. This space tries to ‘expose’ sensations rather than ‘play’ them, as attempted by Nam June Paik in his ‘Exposition of Music’. It operates as a small realm dominated by imagination, where the viewer can freely make conceptual links between elements of works and Klavier Integral.
･ Mirai Jeon, Controller, 2010
･ Hee-Seon Kim, Non-self situation, 2002
･ Min-Jung Kim, Breathing Door, 2006
･ Yuri Suzuki, Musical Kettle, 2008
A life filled with random moments
Jin-Won Lee (aka Gazaebal), Exonemo, Yuri Suzuki, Jiminy
Manipulating time through video could never satisfy Nam June Paik. He wanted to go further and conquer life which surrendered to time. perhaps, what he wanted was to experience as many lives as possible in a short while, using video as his own vehicle, – like a book you can open and read from anywhere, or a dictionary you can look through if you have the right keyword. Jiminy’s Character of Forest(2010) is an installation of individual pages form books, sharing Nam June Paik’s desire to experience time in this way. Yuri Suzuki, as a tribute to Nam June Paik’s Random Access, created a track which he made out of LPs and on which you can run a miniature car with a stylus. The audience can form new tracks or they can freely choose which part of the track to put the car(s). This results in open-ended music.
Nam June Paik struggled with time throughout his practice. he attempted to capture time by recording it over and over again. He also endeavored to manipulate time by fast forwarding video tapes. He, then, resented that life could not be reversed just like a video tape, and that life passes faster and faster as it reaches its end just like a video tape. nam June Paik’s Homage to John Cage simultaneously shows an audio reel hung on the wall, which contains information based on linear time, and audio tapes which are chaotically lying at the bottom of the frame, tangled and unwound from their reels. Entangled tapes symbolize random access and confusion. Just like what is shown in Homage to John Cage, both linear time and random time coexist in our lives — and we cannot attain either.
･ Jin-Won Lee (aka Gazaebal), Grainy Loop_for Audiovisual, 2009
･ Exonemo, RGB F__cker, 2010
･ Yuri Suzuki, Sound Chaser, 2010
･ Jiminy, Character of Forest, 2010
The City is not a tree
Gordon Matta-Clark, Minouk Lim, Taeyoon Choi
The City is not a tree(a quote taken from Christopher Alexander) starts from the question of how individuals within the massive system that a city is, form various folds of life and new relationships. Even in this age of dispersed networks, authority still pursues control. In spite of this, artists try to subvert situations in order to raise issues and safeguard memories that are wiped out by the homogenizing affect of fast paced development. Urban space becomes a stage and the audience is either held captive by this stage or, by re-determining established relationships, activates participation by creating unexpected connectivities.
Nam June Paik’s Suite 212 is a late night video series which was broadcast by W-NET in New York in 1975. It consists of a series of electronic collages that show New York as seen by Paik. He rhythmically shows diverse aspects of the vibrant city life, from the relationship between urban development and the influence of media, to interviews at Washington Square and a noodle shop in Chinatown where immigrants flock together. In Gordon Matta-Clark’s Clock Shower, a performance is carried out by the artist clinging to and taking a shower on the clock face up in a clock tower in the middle of New York City. This transforms the clock tower from architectural facade into a theatrical structure. Minouk Lim’s S.O.S Adoptive Dissensus invites viewers onto a ‘traveling’ stage by taking them on a leisure boat tour of the Han River and Seoul, thus exposing them to ‘unexpected’ happenings. In the unique surroundings of the leisure boat, viewers are reminded of memories lost during the process of modernization and industrialization coming face-to-face with dissonant voices that exist in society. Taeyoon Choi’s Stage Directions addresses diverse ways of programming urban space from an individual perspective. He imagines the stage as the surface of a city and performs an excavation of what could lie beneath this surface.
･ Gordon Matta-Clark, Clock Shower, 1976
･ Minouk Lim, S.O.S Adoptive Dissensus, 2009
･ Taeyoon Choi, Stage Directions, 2010
We are in open circuits, aren’t we?
Closed circuits and surveillance : the world of media evokes the illusion that it is separate from the ordinary world, but we know that in reality this is not so. Every minute of our everyday life is exposed to media. Although the closed structure of the CCTV screen, immediately reminiscent of the Panopticon, and the open structure of cybernetic random-access which allows bold editing and cutting, seem different on the surface, the truth is that they share the fundamental protocols of cybernetic technology intrinsic to both of them. Therefore, though a ‘modern cyborg’ may start his day with a Smartphone in his hand, dreaming of free and random access, his desire for networks has a double face : surveillance and communication.
Nam June Paik mentioned, ‘…this German invention led to cybermetics, which came to the world in the last war to shoot down German planes from English sky.’ This comment indicates his recognition of the contradicting values generated by cybernetics technology and his realization that such a phenomenon itself only reveals the karma of samsara – the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Yangachi’s Now. We are. Despite all these. The confident people living on the New World is a strange intervention by an artist into a surveillance system with the intention of transforming it into a playing area. A Nam June Paik-style approach to cybernetics technology, created as a happening which attempts to switch a ‘closed circuit’ to an ‘open circuit’.
･ Yangachi, Now. We are. Despite all these. The confident people living on the New World, 2010
Conjunctures within breach
Helena Almeida, Bruce Nauman, Tammy Kim, Nam June Paik
Conjusnctures within Breach is constructed around Paik’s 1961 performance Hand and Face and explores the double status of being that the body establishes with its simultaneous capabilities of perception and sensation. Departing from the notion of the body, an ‘in between’ space is established within the conjuncture or works by different artists: Paik’s Hand and Face, Helena Almeida’s Ouve-me, Bruce Nauman’s
Walk with Contraposto and Tammy Kim’s 5 interloc(k)utors. Also on display is video footage titled Head and Foot(Olympic Speed Up)found in the Nam June Paik Video Archive.
The works by Paik, Almeida and Nauman, all film or video footage of ‘private’ performances, foreground the role of the body and the functioning of different senses in the construction of experience and creative thinking. This complex network of sensorial interface that our bodies command evidences the reversibility between subject and object, part and whole, and emphasizes participation by making visible the convergence of observer and observed. Kim’s piece, by requiring direct engagement and restricting the movement of the body, makes fixed perspectives and hierarchies between participants visible. By activating the visitors’ awareness of the spatial disposition, Kim’s installation becomes a vehicle for the distances and proximities between things. This perspective, juxtaposed with notion of random access explored by Paik in his practice, considers body as both an interface and a possible resistance to the deluge of information offered by current developments in media technology. What potentialities does this role for the body offer in re-imagining the relationship between subject and object? What contributions can this make to an understanding of experience that is closer to the participatory model that Paik addresses in his writing? Additionally, Kim’s work will host performances and interactions by other artists that may then result in new elements disarranging the original layout of the space. Currently, a projection and object that resulted from a performance by Pedro Lagoa, in collaboration with Park Seungjun and Cho Yonghoon, titled When I look at clouds, I see clouds, have been introduced.
･ Helena Almeida, Ouve-me(hear me), 1979 – 1980
･ Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contraposto, 1968
･ Tammy Kim, 5 interloc(kt)utors, 2010
･ Nam June Paik, Head and Foot(Speed Up), Updated
Thomas Hirschhorn, Wolf Vostell, Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, Richard Serra, Nobuyoshi Araki, Clayton Campbell, Martha Clburn, Chan-kyong Park
Commensurable! is based on a poster that Nam June Paik designed for a performance event in Aachen, Germany on the 20th of July, 1964. Since this date fell on the day, twenty years later, of Stauffenberg’s failed attempt to assassinate German dictator Adolf Hitler, Paik made a poster that collage together cut-outs portraying diverse subjects from war and torture, to bondage sex to everyday events. Commensurable!, like Paik’s poster, uses these constructed comparisons to dig deeper into the inner desires of human beings. In the work of Young-hae Chang Heavey Industries or Chan-kyong Park, for example, habitual representations of the (Korean) post-war situation are subverted by music, images from popular culture, and facts being presented as everyday stories. The monotonous, bordering on apathy, style of presentation shocks because of the apparent indifference with which horrifying, yet common and strangely amusing facts of one of the longest ongoing conflicts in modern human history are described. This often results in an effect of humor or sarcasm that is also found in Paik’s work. Japanese artist Araki became famous from the 1980s for his photographs of sexual bondage practices. Especially in the Western world, these pictures that oscillate between pleasure and pain were simultaneously disturbing and fascinating. Araki’s works, by challenging pre-conceptions and discourses, triggered controversy and debate. Artist Richard Serra, famous for his huge steel sculptures, made a chalk drawing with the words STOP BUSH for the last US election. He then placed it on the pleasebote.com website to be downloaded for free. The drawing is a silhouette of one of he famous Abu Ghraib torture photographs that sow American soldiers seemingly having fun torturing Arab inmates and which shocked the world in 2004 when they became public.
Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s Incommensurable Banner, pushes issues even further, by questioning the very aspect of the kind of pictures we see and how we are able to cope with the vast number of horrifying images-and facts – that bombard us every day. Hirschhorn’s work, controversial and distressing, does not really question the problem of image distribution in general-these pictures are generally self-censored by the media and even by art institutions anyway- instead it questions the very nature of art and how willing we are to experience it, if it proves to be challenging.
･ Thomas Hirschhorn, The Incommensurable Banner, 2007
･ Wolf Vostell, Sun in your head, 1964
･ Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, Operation Nukorea, 2003
･ Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, Operation Dear Leader, 2003
･ Richard Serra, STOP BUSH, 2007
･ Nobuyoshi Araki, Untitled(Bondage), 1979 – 2004
･ Clayton Campbell, Words My Son has Learned Since 9-11, 2004 – 2005
･ Martha Colburn, Destiny Manifesto, 2007
･ Chan-kyong Park, Power Passage, 2004 / 2010