Memories of Wuppertal - Paik Nam June: 1 Year Commemoration of His Death

When 23 Mar - 6 May 2007
Where National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeonggi-do

There was an event that was about to cause a huge change in art history of the world, and it happened on March 11 in Wuppertal, German, 1963. It was the very first solo video art show entitled Nam June Paik Electronic Television and Exposition of Music at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal. But only several friends and supporters of Paik's paid attention to his video art show.

As Arthur Danto quotes Yeats's poem entitled "Leda and the Swan," he indicates how difficult to judge something that will be historically valuable in the future. As described in the poem, Zeus transformed himself into a swan and raped Leda but this commitment was merely one of Zeus's picturesque erotic interventions that he had committed. The rape of Leda came to be very important because Helen of Troy who is the child of Zeus and Leda was convinced on that occasion, the Trojan War. His first solo exhibition was just another event of what other great avant-garde artists, who predominated the western society in the early 1960s, had committed. However, people are aware of the fact that history of video art was firstly started by Nam Jun Paik who described himself as "a little-known artist from a small country in the Far East" and this small exhibition became a major event that is no less important than the meeting of the Swan and Leda.

Most of the general pieces were disappeared after the exhibition. But fortunately there was a faithful photographer named Manfred Leve among Nam June's friends, and various scenes from Paik's solo exhibition have been remained in photographs as well as other creations. These are the only documents that are remained photographs about the exhibition in Wuppertal and these became more valuable for art history. Leve's photographs of Nam June's performance entitled "Homage? John Cage" and performances in Neo-Dada in der Musik and Festum Fluxorum become a prelude to this exhibition Memories of Wuppertal and lead us to a portrait of the artist as a young man, Nam June Paik.

We experience the idea of his first show entitled Electronic Television and Exposition of Music through those photographs so that we are finally being able to understand and share Nam June's "Softest Software" and his memories through those images. After Wuppertal, Dieter Rosenkranz and his wife Si collected some of his works including an important piece entitled "Kuba TV" and this becomes an evidence showing Paik's great activities in Wuppertal. We can share Paik's experiences and memories through his achievement so called as "My precious memories" We can meet with his early works and video works which comprehend Fluxus art movement. Since his original works were lost, many of them have been reproduced by the 1990s. But those reproductions will provide a way to understand aesthetics of participation and interactivity.

In this exhibition, there are some of special collections such as video clips presented by an artist Kim Soun-gui, short film edited by Shigeko Kubota and some of photographs by Manfred Leve to recall the artist Nam June Paik. Kim Soun-gui has known Nam June Paik since the late 1970s by introduction of John Cage, and those video clips should retrospect the life and art of him. Kim also presents the work entitled "Bonjour Nam June" which is an interview with Paik in his studio, New York, 1982. It is to comprehend what is beyond the works of Nam June Paik. And "My Life with Nam June Paik" edited by Shigeko Kubota is to recall Paik's life and describe him as a person who was not only a great artist but also an artistic companion of her life to share with. Leve also presents some of photographs from his collection to show and describe Paik's life as an artist until he died.

This exhibition is focusing on the time when the video art was introduced for the first time and Nam June Paik was the founder of video art. It is summarized in three sections beginning with the exposition presenting documentary photographs on his performances. The first section shows documentary photographs on his performances done together with members of Fluxus art movement in 1963, and also in Neo-Dada in der Musik, 1962. In the following section, the development, we could experience the idea of the exhibition entitled Electronic Television and Exposition of Music at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal along with his works that reflect on the memories of Wuppertal and the Paik's first solo exhibition through documentary photographs. In the recapitulation, the coda, is consisted of video clips that reflect the life and art of Nam June Paik. Especially the work entitled "Bonjour Nam June" presented by an artist Kim Soun-gui, it is an interview with Paik in his studio, New York, 1982. This interview is to comprehend Paik's own philosophy of art through his own language. And also there is a short film entitled "My Life with Nam June Paik" edited by Shigeko Kubota. In this film, Paik is being described as a person who was not only a great artist but also an artistic companion of Shigeko's life to share with.

Paik's this little story became a part of art history and this little part from art history became a myth. And the myth finally becomes a memory that reflects his personal art history through this retrospective exhibition. We can appreciate his own philosophy of art by joining this exhibition Memories of Wuppertal. The great achievement of the artist as a young man, Nam June Paik, has suggested a new way of thoughts in art history for over 40 years and what he had achieved will be variations to be echoed in each of us.

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Contemporary Art

National Museum of Contemporary Art
427-701, San 58-1, Makgye-dong,
Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
TEL: 82 2 2188 6000

Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 10am - 6pm; Saturday & Sunday, 10am - 9pm


PAIK Namjune(백남준)
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