Nam June Paik at Tate Modern

Merce by Merce by Paik: Part One: Blue Studio: Five Segments 1975-1976
Single-channel videotape, colour, sound. 15min, 38sec.
Part of Merce by Merce by Nam June Paik. In collaboration with Charles Atlas, Merce Cunningham, and Shigeko Kubota. Music: John Cage, David Held. Host: Russell Connor
Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Not long left for Tate Modern’s major exhibition of the work of visionary Korean-born artist Nam June Paik. Renowned for his innovative use of emerging technologies, Paik’s playfully entertaining work remains an inspiration for artists, musicians and performers across the globe.

Over 200 artworks, photographs, films and archive objects are brought together in a mesmerising riot of light and sound, from rarely seen early experiments to large-scale immersive installations.

Internet Dream 1994, Install view, Tate Modern 2019.
Ten 20-inch cathode-ray tube televisions, forty-two 13-inch cathode-ray tube televisions, custom-made video wall system, steel frame and three video channels, colour, sound
2870 x 3800 x 800 mm
ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe
Credit Tate Photography

Nam June Paik (1932-2006) developed a collaborative and interdisciplinary practice that foresaw the importance of mass media and new technologies, coining the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’ to predict the future of communication in an internet age.

Still from Bye Bye Kipling 1986 Single
channel video, colour, sound. 30min, 32sec
Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and the Estate of Nam June Paik

He has become synonymous with the electronic image through a prodigious output of manipulated TV sets, live performances, global television broadcasts, single-channel videos, and video installations.

© Decor Punk Magazine

To introduce Paik’s radical world, the exhibition opens with TV Garden 1974/2002. This large-scale installation explores diminishing distinctions between nature and technology, comprising dozens of television sets that appear to grow from within a garden of lush foliage. Paik’s first robot work Robot K-456 1964 is also on display and a room is dedicated to screening three of Paik’s ground-breaking satellite videos. Broadcast throughout the 1980s, these ambitious works feature icons of popular culture including Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie and Lou Reed, defining the ‘MTV aesthetic’ of the era.

Charlotte Moorman with TV Cello and TV Eyeglasses 1971
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Lent by Peter Wenzel Collection, Germany

The artist also played a pivotal role in Fluxus, an international network of avant-garde artists, composers, designers and poets, through the cross-germination of radical aesthetics and experimentation. Born in South Korea, but living and working in Japan, Germany and the USA, Paik collaborated with a global community of cutting-edge artists. The show highlights key creative partnerships with composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and artist Joseph Beuys. Paik’s collaboration with cellist Charlotte Moorman was also deeply significant for both artists, who developed a repertoire of provocative performances incorporating Paik’s TV sculptures within elaborate costumes and props. The exhibition includes TV Cello 1971 and TV Bra for Living Sculpture 1969, alongside videos and photography of their performances.

Internet Dream 1994, Install view, Tate Modern 2019.
Ten 20-inch cathode-ray tube televisions, forty-two 13-inch cathode-ray tube televisions, custom-made video wall system, steel frame and three video channels, colour, sound
2870 x 3800 x 800 mm
ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe
Credit Tate Photography
 

A room is devoted to Paik’s pivotal first solo exhibition, Exposition of Music – Electronic Television. Several of the original artworks are brought together again, including prepared pianos and musical instruments, alongside examples of the artist’s earliest manipulated televisions. Further highlights include seminal works that demonstrate the influence of Zen, Taoism and wider Buddhist philosophies in Paik’s approach to art and technology, including TV Buddha 1974 and One Candle 1989. The exhibition culminates with the dazzling installation Sistine Chapel 1993, recreated for the first time since Paik was awarded the Golden Lion for the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale over 25 years ago.

Magnet TV 1965
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchased, with funds from Dieter Rosenkranz.

Nam June Paik is curated by Sook-Kyung Lee, Senior Curator, International Art, Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational, Tate Modern, and Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with Valentina Ravaglia, Curator, and Michael Raymond, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and National Gallery of Singapore.

A Tribute to John Cage 1973-76 
Single-channel video, color, with sound. 29min,2sec.
Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and the Estate of Nam June Paik

For tickets go to tate.org.uk

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