East Contemporary

Nam June Paik Art Centre

10 Paiknamjune-ro, Sanggal-dong, Giheung-gu, yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, 446-905 Korea; http://www.njpartcenter.kr/en/

Nam June Paik Art Centre (NJP Centre) is located in proximity to Suwon. It is a museum dedicated to the video art pioneer Nam June Paik. There seem to be rotating exhibitions, which are centered on the work of Nam June Paik. It was my second visit to the NJP Centre, so I will be writing mainly about both of the visits, highlighting the differences.

Nam Jun Paik - TV Buddha

When I came in 2012, the exhibition on show was “TV Commune” (Sept 2011 – Jan 2012). The museum was separated into two areas. On the first floor (smaller) there was a ‘permanent exhibition’ of Paik’s works, while on the first floor there was the actual “TV Commune” exhibition (which also featured Paik’s works, including an installation of Paik’s studio).

On my second visit to the museum this year, the exhibition has changed. Now it was “Nostalgia is an Extended Feedback” (Jul 2012 – Jan 2013). This time, the both floors were themed in relation to the title of the show. When wandering around, I realized that there was a number of Paik’s works that have stayed in the same place unchanged since my last visit. The “TV Fish” artwork has stayed in place, as has the “TV garden” and Paik’s studio installation on the second floor. Other of Paik’s works stayed in the same places as well. New works added to the exhibition included mainly Paik’s robot sculptures: Anthropomorphic sculptures consisting of TV monitors and a metal skeleton. Many of them: There were robots on bikes, on motorbikes, on cars, and a whole row of robots standing. Paik’s works that have been removed from display since last time were mostly videos documenting some of his early performances.

Paik was prominent everywhere throughout the building; his works have been supplemented by other works in relation to the topic. Mostly, these works have been works of his younger contemporaries. There was Bill Viola with an early video piece (Ancient Days), Antoni Muntadas’ The File Room, Lutz Dambeck’s movie The Net and a new installation by Olafur Eliasson (Your Uncertain Shadow (Growing)) – just to mention some. All non-Paik artworks have been from artists of this caliber – well known and established. I thought it would be interesting to bring in also a younger generation of artists and put them in a dialogue with Paik’s work. For example in this show, it would have been very nice to include “CNN” by Zin Ki-jong which I have seen earlier in the New Acquisitions 2011 show at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Maybe this wish – to include more artists of a younger generation – will be fulfilled in one of the future shows.

If I think about the longer exhibition strategy of the museum, I wonder if they will keep producing Paik-centered exhibitions. Even after seeing these two shows, I could feel they were quite similar, and it will be probably same with the future ones. Paik’s oeuvre is a closed one now, and the possible variations and topics are limited. I think it may be a better approach for the museum to keep one part (a smaller one) of the museum for a permanent Paik-exhibition that could be changing every six months or so, while using the rest of the museum for media art exhibitions not necessarily in direct connection with Paik. I believe that that would be the best way of keeping Paik’s spirit alive, staying true to his spirit of innovation and creative thinking about media: Showing 21st century art that is as radical as innovative as Paik was in the 1970’s. Instead of a place of remembrance and looking backwards in time, this would allow to create a space where Paik’s spirit can truly live on.

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