No artist has had a greater influence in imagining and realizing the artistic potential of video and television than Korean-born Nam June Paik. Through a vast array of installations, videotapes, global television productions, films, and performances, Paik has reshaped our perceptions of the temporal image in contemporary art. The Worlds of Nam June Paik transforms the Guggenheim Museum into a celebration of the moving image and an appreciation of Paik s impact on the art of the late-twentieth century.
Paik studied music composition first in Korea, then at the University of Tokyo, where he wrote his thesis on Modernist composer Arnold SchÃ¶nberg. In 1956 Paik traveled to Europe and settled in Germany to pursue his interest in avant-garde music and performance. During studies at the Summer Course for New Music in Darmstaat in 1958, he met composer John Cage. Cages ideas on composition and performance were a great influence on Paik, as were those of George Maciunas, the founder of the radical art movement Fluxus, which Paik was invited to join.
Paiks initial artistic explorations of the mass media of television were presented in his first solo exhibition in 1963, Exposition of Music'Electronic Television, at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany. This milestone exhibition featured PaikÃs prepared televisions.
Paik altered the sets to distort their reception of broadcast transmissions and scattered them about the room, on their sides and upside down. He also created interactive video works that transformed the viewers relationship to the medium. With these first steps began an astonishing effusion of ideas and invention that over the next 30 years would play a profound role in the introduction and acceptance of the electronic moving image into the realm of art.
In 1964 Paik moved to New York and continued his explorations of television and video, and, by the late 1960s, was at the forefront of a new generation of artists creating an aesthetic discourse out of television and the moving image. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Paik also worked as a teacher and an activist, supporting other artists and working to realize the potential of the emerging medium. Along with his remarkable sequence of videotapes and projects for television'featuring collaborations with friends Laurie Anderson, Joseph Beuys, David Bowie, Cage, and Merce Cunningham he created a series of installations that fundamentally changed video and redefined artistic practice.
At the center of The Worlds of Nam June Paik is Modulation in Sync (2000), which includes two laser installations created with Norman Ballard for the museum rotunda that transform Frank Lloyd WrightÃs architecture into a dynamic audiovisual space. Projected onto the rotunda oculus, Sweet and Sublime is a rapidly changing display of geometric shapes that echo Wright s innovative design. In Jacob s Ladder, laser projections pass through a seven-story waterfall that cascades from the top of the museum. On the rotunda floor, a cluster of television monitors, with their screens facing up, project a pulsing display of rapidly changing imagery. Video projections along the ramp edges aimed towards the center of the rotunda provide a visual link between the images on the ground and those on the oculus, symbolizing the connections between PaikÃs historical remaking of video into an artistÃs medium and his latest transformation of laser into a dramatic treatment of energy and light.
The museumÃs High Gallery hosts Paik s recently completed three-dimensional laser sculptures, while the ramps feature PaikÃs landmark installations and sculptural pieces. In works such as Real Fish/Live Fish (1982), TV Chair (1968), and Video Buddha (1976), the artist employs videocameras and monitors to explore our perceptions of both external objects and ourselves and to create a profound sense of how we understand the world. These works are arranged together with the multiple-monitor installations Video Fish (1975), TV Garden (1974), and TV Clock (1963), in which Paik arrays rhetorical and aesthetic strategies to dismantle customary ways of seeing. Specially installed for this exhibition, such pioneering works take on particular relevance to the prevalent use of video by younger contemporary artists.
The museums Tower Gallery houses a selection of Paik s early works, including audio and video recordings and key sculptural and interactive works from the 1960s and early Ã70s. These early prepared television and interactive video pieces, including Magnet TV (1965) and Participation TV (1963), offer a sophisticated, radical treatment of the ways in which interactions with technology can yield new visual experiences.
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