I had heard of Nam June Paik before. The Tate had exhibited a number of his joyful robot sculpture constructions over the years and I enjoyed them very much. I was therefore quite look forward to a full exhibition of his work, which is currently being shown at Tate Modern. Initially I was quite impressed. The first exhibit is the delightful jungle like affair (above). A darkened room, strewn with lush potted plants, and peaking out between them these televisions poking out from between the foliage. They show Paik characteristic, blurry indistinct colourful images.
Opposite that were some very simple but strangely captivating line drawings using the classic Korean ink painting. They are bold and inviting lines. I will get onto the other highlights but I found there was a lot of heavy quite tedious typed and written manifestos. Paik was at his peak at the age of the manifesto and there were an awful lot of them. I don't like being told what the art is. Unless your philosophy is interesting and well put I am simply not going to wade through pages of typeface. No doubt this does appeal to some and there were many earnest looking people who obviously got a lot out of it. For me though art has to have above all a visual impact.
And there is plenty of Paik's work that does. One of the strong things he does is constructing things out of electrical equipment. Anthorpomophising. Is that what is going on? Two excellent examples are above right where you have a pair of glasses and a bra, apparently. Anyway this 80s tech steam punk wearable tech thing really appeals to me.
In a darkened room at the end are banks of television screens arranged both landscape and portrait. They show both composite images and separate images which engulf you from the end of the room. Its quite an experience and depending on what is being shown can be either activating or calming. Its a nice idea done well.
My favourite room though was the Robot room. The robot's as I said before are the elements of Paik's work I find the most engaging, the most pleasing and the most joyful. There were three (above) showing a sort of evolution of the robot and the incorporating of the TV screens is a nice touch. I spent most of my time in this room marveling at the old tech. I would, ideally have liked to have seen many more of these.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.