For Edinburgh International Festival 2013 Talbot Rice Gallery
presents the first exhibition in Scotland of legendary Korean artist Nam June Paik (1932 2006). No other artist has had greater influence on the use of technology in art than Paik; a genuine pioneer and true visionary, he anticipated through his art and writing so much of what we now understand to be the nature of life in the 21st Century, from multi-channel television and satellite broadcasts to the current trend towards film and video within Fine Art practice.
The future is now
Nam June Paik
Born in Korea in 1932, Nam June Paik became one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century. Artist, musician, inventor, innovator, writer, teacher and prolific collaborator, Paiks impact and legacy continues to resonate with contemporary artists against a wider cultural and technological context.
A global nomad, Paik travelled extensively in his lifetime, developing a cross-cultural aesthetic shaped by his experiences living in Korea, Japan, Germany and the United States. It was in Germany in the late 1950s and early 1960s that he met John Cage and developed his experimental music performances as part of the radical Fluxus movement. Aiming to challenge and change the conventions of both performance and the performance space, Fluxus irreverent and playful works occurred outside the gallery or museum setting, breaking traditional codes and expectations and blurring the established boundary between audience and performer. Paik typified Fluxus, he used instruments as an extension of his body, manipulating them in unconventional ways: dragging a violin behind him down the street, smashing his face against the keys of a piano or literally destroying them, playfully reveling in the shock of such unorthodox acts, and the chance, unpredictable sounds that such actions generated.
Paiks experimental music works formed a major part of his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal in 1963, an exhibition that is also generally recognized as being the first to introduce the television set into a Fine Art context. Paik got inside the televisions, subverting their form and primary function, presenting the TV as a tactile and multisensory medium. Transmitted Live: Nam June Paik Resounds, co-curated by the Nam June Paik Center, Korea, marks the 50th anniversary of this landmark exhibition, celebrating its significance as well as the broader impact of Paiks artistic legacy.
The main floor of Talbot Rice Gallery contains a survey of Paiks iconic works in film, sculpture and documentary. His handmade robots sit alongside his TV Cello and a video lounge with a particular focus on Paiks collaborative work with high-profile figures such as Cage, Charlotte Moorman and Merce Cunningham. The upper gallery is filled with archive material from both the 1963 exhibition and Paiks broader career. Including his collection of bizarre objects, exhibition posters and printed matter, plus photographic images of his iconic performances, they create a vivid, intimate portrait of the man and his work.
The Round Room offers a site of quiet contemplation; in the clearest example of Paiks trademark intercultural investigation, his TV Buddha sits here alone, gazing at his own technologically generated image in an act of perpetual, self-reflecting meditation.
In contrast, the adjoining Georgian Gallery is filled with the sights and sounds of Global Groove. Opening with the prophetic statement, This is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow when you will be able to switch on any TV station on the earth, Paiks seminal 1973 video flips from avant-garde performances and folk rituals to catchy dance numbers, echoing the insatiable and impatient channel-flipping culture of today. Coupled with the extraordinary Video Chandelier No.1, a cascading mass of wires and monitors strung from the ceiling, the Georgian Gallery will pulsate to Paiks unique audiovisual beat, resounding throughout Talbot Rice Gallery and beyond.