Tuesday, 8 February 2011

nam june paik

I went to see Nam June Paik's "Laser Cone" in FACT Liverpool. Lying back and watching the visuals was a really novel, compelling experience, and it really showed the potential of more modern artistic media. The piece felt fun and not overly earnest, without the need for a deep concept or agenda. I like artwork that's direct in this way. 

The work in Tate was more of a mixed bag. Paik's "TV Garden" was obviously quite special, and "One Candle" had a very simple, iconic feel. These instillation works presented a set of imagery that kind of put the question of the artwork's worth back into the hands of the viewer. This is something I've found tedious in the past, but Paik's visual language was one I could occasionally find myself quite absorbed in, more than say Tate's previous Rothko exhibition. I thought his "Aunt" and "Uncle" sculptures had quite a  concise, simple message, and many of the more Zen-focused works felt quite witty and informed. The works that alluded to broader truths were the ones I thought were the most worthy.

I suppose now, because the art world is so saturated with video artwork, I found much of Paik's less sculptural work quite tedious and obtuse. I think that video collage, at any length, can be really boring without narrative. It's our natural instinct to piece together a narrative or meaning in what we're seeing, so it becomes a real effort to take in more ambient, abstract pieces like those in the upstairs of FACT. I rarely have the patience. The fault probably lies with me as the viewer, but in general, it's just not to my taste. Avante-garde is often accused of being a bit empty, and I felt Paik's works were in some ways indulgent and shallow a lot of the time.

I'm not sure whether seeing these works has made me think about what I plan to do with my own video works. Video artwork is different to film in that you absorb it in a much more casual sense, so I think that would have to be a consideration in whatever way I choose to display it.

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