Nam June Paik - The future is now
The father of videoart at Fondazione Remotti

recensione by Jizaino, 15 December 2013

Nam June Paik
The future is now
Fondazione Pier Luigi e Natalina Remotti
Via Castagneto 52 - Camogli, Italy
30 November 2013 - 2 March 2014
Opening hours: Saturday, Sunday and 2-3 January | 11 am - 6 pm
Free entrance[]>


2013 has been the year of the quinquagenary of videoart's birth, since when in 1963 Nam June Paik, considered in this case the father of videoart, held the Fluxus exhibition "Exposition of Music, Electronic Television" at the German gallery Parnass, where the visitors were welcomed by a freshly severed ox head and a series of video installations of electronic pictures and sounds, and prepared pianos.

The exhibition

The exhibition organized by Fondazione Remotti, proposes a good amount of artworks mixing video, installation, painting and graphics tied to the Fluxus, with many references to other artists from the movement, John Cage and Joseph Beuys in primis.

"Beuys Voice" and detail, 1988
Laser painting, oil painting, various objects, 162 x 196 x 10 cm

Untitled (Laurie Anderson), 1996
Computer, laser photograph on canvas, I.C.T.V.,
laser disc player, 91,5 x 119,5 cm

Notwithstanding Paik's avid experimentation with the new medium, which at that time was optimistically considered by many as a desirable invasion of electronics in the human world, preceding the cyberpunk movement thus vanguard of transhumanism, we can find instead in many of almost all these artworks a feeling of discomfort and criticism toward the television means, which prophetically has warned of the dangers that in fact has happened.
Just think also about the approach of other artists and protagonists of the Fluxus, starting from the famous performance "Filz-TV" by Joseph Beuys, personage who has really disapproved the television, and in that occasion undertook a connection to the TV screen through a sausage to then punch his own face; or to the mythic video "TV as a Fireplace" by Jan Dibbets, where in the TV screen there is the projection of a domestic fireplace.

In some of Paik's artworks shown in this exhibition we find again evidently that disapproving approach: "TV Frog",  where two stone frogs (the TV audience) stare in the TV screen some real frogs performing repetitive froggy action as jumping and eating an insect accompanied by a wacky music repeated until exasperation; a n untitled lantern which flame is replaced by a mini TV (that the installers of this exhibition have however mounted upside down), and "TV Buddha" that suggests the power of TV screen to mesmerise the human being and to black out any religious and philosophic enlightenment.

"TV Frog", 1979-1995
Monitor, stone sculptures, variable dimensions

Untitled, 1995
Lantern, mini TV, 32 x 19 cm

"TV Buddha", undated
Monitor, gilded wooden sculpture, variable dimensions

From this point of view, also the ox head in the exhibition at the Parnass gallery in 1963 does not seem an attempt to easily rise a scandal, but it acquires a precise meaning: the ox, synonym of force and obstinacy in oriental cultures and even occidental, violently dies facing the electronic revolution.

Even the performance dedicated to Pail held at the Fondazione Remotti in this occasion is a clear message of criticism against television: a group of actors masked as animals seat around the video artwork "TV as a Fireplace" by Dibbets and make clicks with the fingers till they produce a deafening and hypnotic noise that could be interpreted as the gesture of pressing the remote control's buttons, the true sceptre of false power handed to the dominated and passive television users.

Performance for Nam June Paik, recorded at the Fondazione Remotti

I do not know if the Paik's artworks with mini TVs equipped with antenna, at that time were been tuned on some analogical television station  (since the searching of the first usable channel is a common function of such portable devices), in that case today, after the switch to the digital transmission system, they could not do nothing but to show a video noise for signal absence: when art based on technology suffers of premature obsolescence, loosing its prerogative of yearning the eternity.

"TV Clock", 1991
Monitor, clock, close circuit camera, 95 x 95 x 140 cm

"TV Cello", 1980
Shaped cardboard, photograph, frame, 173 x 82 x 14 cm

"Afrique mountain memory", 1991
Polymateric on canvas, on board, 61 x 76 x 15 cm

"TV Paper" (detail), 1992
Drawing, collage on paper, 25 x 44 cm

"Fluxus island - in D├ęcollage ocean", 1962
Silk-screen print on fabric, 154 x 154 cm


Great opportunity to know Nam June Pain. High-level exhibition as often Fondazione Remotti has get used to, in spite of the decentralised position far from big towns of culture.

It could be due to global crisis times, but this exhibition adopted very limited opening hours, only Saturday and Sunday, that is absolutely agreeable, understanding that contemporary art is a niche phenomenon, and moreover the most copious inflow of visitors is made of people interested more in frivolous and mundane inaugurations, with no real interest in the artistic mind, thus long daily opening hours are more than superfluous.

Jizaino -

Read also: Videoart in Germany from 1963 to 2004