This creator’s pieces have inspired the outstanding interdisciplinary works of our days.
The multimedia visions of Nam June Paik /
Facing the vertiginous and unbridled advances of the period’s technology, many voices have proclaimed the failure of the vanguards of the twentieth century. The reproduction of the image led film, photography and animation to surpass with their diffusion and their innovative merits any other form of art. Film established itself as the “most beloved art” according to Andre Bazin. The technology of photo-sensible materials propelled the way in which we see image and sound.
The artistic vanguards of the twentieth century represent a historically crucial point that gathers literary vanguards, politics and technologies. However, did they actually fail or did they merely fail to update on time? In Behind the Times: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century Avant Gardes, Eric Hobsbawm says that “A camera on a footplate can communicate the sensation of speed better than a Futurist canvas by Baila”. But in postmodernity art it seems to be narrowly associated with several fields of study: biotechnology, physics, industrial design and engineering. Are these new interdisciplinary relations a serious actualisation in the way we perceive art?
Since Hegel, many voices have foretold the death of art, impoverished by the commercial dynamics that behave aggressively towards it, outshined by the technological dazzle, and in many cases disconnected from the viewer. However, during the second half of the twentieth century the focus was turned towards art and technology, and without a doubt one of the rebels who headed this phenomenon was the South Korean, Nam June Paik (1932-2006). His video-art, installations and music works were a revolutionary inclusion in this field; exploring the relation between portable video media, television, satellite television, music and electronics.
Pre-Bell-Man, a statue by Paik that stands in front of Frankfurt’s Museum für Kommunikation, is a comical metaphor embodying the art/technology binomial: the horseman is a geometric robot made of radio and television devices, the horse is painted green and is poorly ornamented, expressing a change in the perception of art. The rider raises his hand victoriously, encompassing the current zeitgeist, the vision of the artist —who was probably among the first video-artists together with Wolf Vostell— is distilled from the Fluxus spirit and its multimedia incursion in art: a revolutionary action despite the premises against a revolution in art at the time.
Fluxus returns to the Dada movement and is inspired by the figure of John Cage, the passion for the composer’s experimentation, and his constant transgression over musical frontiers that were once impassable, were a constant driving force for the group. A key character that profoundly influenced June Paik and his colleagues is the enigmatic and elusive Duchamp; the critical meta-ironic spirit that characterised this agile chess player, also drove these rebels to pursue their unique paths.
The recording Paik made in New York during the visit of Pope Paul VI in the Sixties locks the paradigms which have been at play throughout the entire history of art: the divine, mankind, technique and technology. Contained within this tape is the everyday life of the consumerist metropolis and a vertiginous adventure towards postmodernity.Tagged: art, contemporary art, artistic vanguards, Nam June Paik