The Reflexive Medium – http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262195669_ind_0001.pdf
“Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body’s new membrane of existence.”
“Our life is half natural and half technological.”
The Old and New?
TV and the TV Viewer?
“To illustrate what this book intends to do, I will use as an example a 1974 work by the Korean-born video artist Nam June Paik. The archetype of his long series of TV-Buddhas, this work employs the short-circuit technique, which was state-of-the-art at the time (Fig. I.1).19 A short circuit, produced by a video camera, projects the same image twenty-five times a second onto a TV monitor. That image is of a Buddha statue, which itself is placed in front of the TV screen. The work reflects (and parodies) the relation between TV and TV viewer. It also is reminiscent of the then-current fascination with life images, which J. C. Bringuier in the Cahiers du cinéma called the “mystique du direct.” Bringuier illustrated immediacy in time between picture and viewer with a 1961 photograph of a newscaster on French TV whose image is caught on the monitor while he speaks.20 In his TV Buddha, Paik offers a configuration of image, medium, and body that looks like a subversive demonstration of the way in which their interaction works.
7 Copyrighted Material introduction for the english reader
Fig. I.1. Nam June Paik, Installation view of the exhibition “Projects: Nam June Paik” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. August 29, 1977 through October 10, 1977. Gelatin silver print, 17.8 x 24.1 cm. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/ Licenced by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.
There are two media here (statue and TV), but only one Buddha image— for the Buddha Figure already is an image, and it creates or reflects the same image, as if in a mirror. A viewer is included as well, who receives an image of his or her own. Paik does not address the usual viewer, but instead represents Buddha as a viewer. By means of the so-called Buddha statue (which incidentally is not actually a statue of a Buddha but of a Buddhist monk), and the mirror (which is not actually reflecting but rather simulated by the short circuit between the camera and monitor), Paik creates a deceiving tautology between the speed of the new medium (TV) and the sculptural immobility of the old medium (the statue), both of Japanese origin but the one recent, the other several centuries old. As we compare the dual medium (the one old and three-dimensional, the other new and electronic), the non-identity of image and medium is confirmed. The image we see twice is neither in front of the TV (the statue) nor on the TV screen. It emerges in our gaze, and with a paradoxical ambiguity, for it straddles the boundary between two media which both receive it and yet do not catch it. In a 1974 performance, which took place beside the work, the artist himself replaced the sitting statue in front of the TV, thus offering yet another variant of the circular interrelation of image, medium, and body. ”
A NEW INTRODUCTION FOR THE ENGLISH READER: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9550.pdf
I’ve always been interested in Nam June Paik’s work. He was certainly a pioneer in pushing the technology of his time through artwork. There aren’t many earlier examples of such a creative sense of using these new(ish) wonders.
TV Buddha has grabbed my attention with its clear focus on the religious (or spiritual) and the technological. The fact that the work is a literal reflection of the Buddha through technology sparks a debate on religion in a time of technological advance. Its even more relevant today.
The buddha sits, staring at itself. The present looks back into the past, and visa versa.
Today, we could almost translate it as the physical reflecting on the digital, and visa versa.
There’s a question about archives
Can it be cross-referenced with Daniel Rozin?
The Western Media vs. The Oriental Deity…
Self Perception? Reflection?
Breaking language barriers both physically and metaphorically
– His 4th show – Galeria Bonino, New York.
Nam June Paik: Watch with Buddha
Oh wow,” I exclaim. “Ooh-err.” Lasers are scribbling fancy patterns across my eyeballs. Spiralling tunnels of pulsing colour, footling electronic geometries, zooming meteoric lines of light, all projected on to a translucent fabric cone that dangles from the ceiling of FACT in Liverpool. You can wander round the cone, watching the lasers inscribe their interminable abstract nonsense over its surface. Or lie on the floor under the cone and let the lights envelop you, spirals and circles pulsing towards your face.
Yet it is hard to take this very seriously. Maybe it was never meant to be serious. In any case, lasers are so passé. When one was aimed along Oxford Street as a novel yet severely un-festive Christmas decoration in the early 1980s, people worried that its beam would frazzle and slice any pigeons foolish enough to cross its beam. I waited with bated breath, but no diced pigeon meat ever pelted the pavements. It was disappointing.
We are used to these shimmering bowstrings of light now. Laser lightshows no longer thrill. They’re so commercial and a little bit naff. We, like the technology, have moved on, and these days even the pigeons don’t blink. Laser Cone is a late work by the Korean-born artist Nam June Paik (made in collaboration with Norman Ballard). Paik, who died in 2006, was a pioneer of all sorts of electronic media, an avant garde musician and composer who studied Schoenberg and befriended Stockhausen. Part of the Fluxus movement (along with Yoko Ono), he was an occasional painter, a friend and collaborator of Joseph Beuys and John Cage. Video maestro, TV-mangler and orchestrator of daft performances, Paik persuaded his muse, Charlotte Moorman, to dunk herself in a tank of water before playing the cello naked, with tiny TV monitors strapped to her breasts. It wasn’t that she played the cello well so much as that she could play it at all in these circumstances that seemed to matter.
Much of what Paik did looks quaint now. He was in any case a great recycler, not least of ideas – his own and other people’s. Born in Seoul in 1932, Paik grew up with the technology and art of the postwar 20th century. His sprawling retrospective at Tate Liverpool and FACT is filled with old televisions, inert reel-to-reel tape recorders, primitive electronic synthesisers: flickering, degraded videos of once-radical performances. It’s a junkshop of ideas, old cathode ray tubes, abused pianos and cellos, the dysfunctional and the non-functional. Notes of a musical score are replaced by snippets of magnetic tape. John Cage’s 4’33” silence is recorded in the streets of Harlem and on a rubbish-strewn lot.
Paik takes a pickaxe to a piano. He puts a big magnet on top of a television, and the picture is distorted into an abstract form that looks like a Brancusi or an Arp. He fixed TVs to the undersides of chairs (so you could almost sit on the screen, letting the image warm your bum) and lined them up behind a row of fishtanks. Little fish swam before the screens, oblivious to all the garish action. Other old TVs, of all shapes and sizes, are piled up to look like robots, or sit amongst a jungle of plants in a darkened room, blaring mysteriously amid the foliage. Paik built a motorcyclist with a TV for a head, hands bristling with clogged-up paintbrushes, riding a bike festooned with screens. This work is called Route 66. The biker isn’t so much on a road trip as surfing the channels. At his worst, Paik did the obvious, and the humour has palled.
A fat, black Buddha watches television. He sits giggling before the screen, and looks like he’s enjoying a show. I imagine canned laughter blaring out. But the television is silent, an empty shell. A dead candle sits in the cabinet. Another stone Buddha looks alert, attentive, transfixed before another dead TV, watching a show only he can see. You imagine his wonder at the virtual world in his head. Another carved Buddha, a piece of sandstone so weathered it is little more than a lump, faces a similarly blank screen. The Buddha and the telly look at one another, inscrutable, meditating. I like these works very much, and they retain a peculiar mystery and tension. Made during the 80s and 90s, Paik’s TV Buddhas are also funny, and a little haunting, and for me the best things he ever did.
Elsewhere in the show we come across a projection of a blank video. The image is a bright white light on the wall of a white cell. Occasional random blips, tiny flaws in the tape, provide the only images. Watching this feels absurd as well as meditative, just like listening to 4’33”. I wander out, doing a zombie walk, the blips still in my eyes.