Jesse Jarnow

nam june paik, 1932-2006

(“Magnet TV”)

I can’t claim to be an expert on the work of the Korean artist Nam June Paik, who died on Sunday. I only really saw one show by him, a career retrospective called “The Worlds of Nam June Paik” at the Guggenheim in March of 2000, when I was home for spring break. It blew my mind quite thoroughly, though. A laser-shot waterfall cascaded through the Guggenheim’s central space (the floor of which was covered with a garden of glowing televisions), while ambient sound and light created a continuous environment. (See!) While I could take or leave his Fluxist absurdities like “One For Violin Solo” (though I’m sure it was fun to stage), his technology-oriented sculptures floored me with their combination of beauty and koan-like logic (and humor).

One piece I saw was called “Moon is the Oldest TV,” and was created by a series of televisions holding images of the different phases of the moon. Elsewhere, in “Candle-TV,” Paik had hollowed out television casings and inserted gently burning candles (or maybe there were just pictures of a time he’d done it previously…) The gallery on his site has some nice pictures. Beautiful, inspiring stuff.

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