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    The way the viewer experiences art Essay

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    To him, television was not a defined and limited medium but was a kind of performance object with which he could perform through his imagination and rage against conformity. By doing so; Nam June Paik hopes challenge idea the idea of television as a medium and domain exclusively controlled by a monopoly of broadcaster. He therefore creates alternatives forms of expression out this familiar and accepted everyday object and presented it as art. He experimented with not only with the medium itself but also played with the forms and formats in which they come in, sometimes even inventing the very tools that he used.

    One example of such works is, Magnet TV. In this work, Paik made use of powerful externally mounted electromagnets to manipulate electrons within the television set. In doing so, the process produced a continuously morphing display of abstract lines and shapes on the television screen. The large magnet outside the television can be moved to change the image and modify abstract patterns of light, thus offering the viewers opportunities to actively interact with the work Joseph Beuys made use of materials that are reminders of his past experiences, such as fat and felt.

    These materials are endowed with metaphorical meaning based on the physical qualities inherent in them. For instance, fat, which contains nourishments and a source of energy, is a metaphor for the potential of change ans the release of creative energy. Likewise, felt exemplifies materiality and density connotes the properties of insulation and protection. The two materials are thereby elevated to utmost importance and transformed into instruments of secular upheaval. One example of work which illustrates his choice and treatment of materials is ‘The Pack’.

    This installation presents tll;wenty-four sledges, resembling a pack of dogs, tumbling from the back of a Volkswagen van. Each sledge carries a survival kit made up of a roll of felt for warmth and protection, a lump of animal fat for energy and sustenance, and a torch for navigation and orientation. All the objects here are readymades but thoughtfully arranged according to the artist’s intentions. This work exudes the chaotic and dynamic energy which Beuys considered essential in order to bring change in society.

    The idea of death and survival is played out here, with the sleds carrying items of orientation (flashlight), protection and warmth (felt), and food (fat). Fat and felt, comes across as a regenerative balm for a traumatised post-war Europe. They bear symbolic importance in Beuys’s mind due to his war-time experience. However, unlike Nam June Paik’s television experiments which have changing meanings in different contexts, the fat and felt in Beuys’ have rather similar meaning and significance across all his works. In terms of the manipulation of the physical form of the medium, Paik’s works have greater appeal than that of Beuys’s.

    Nam June Paik transformed the instrumentality of the television set through a process that expressed his deep insights into electronic technology and his understanding of how to reconceive television, to “turn it inside out” and render something entirely new. His works tapped on our imagination of what a television set could be. Whereas, in Beuys’s works, the material, though carefully selected and recontextualised in his visual vocabulary to convey artistic messages, is plain and unclothed. Nam June Paik ‘s use of TV proved to be a wiser choice in relating to the audiences as TV has very much becomes a important commodity in our daily lives.

    The modification of TV sets comes across as new and fresh, and does not fail in prompting us to look into what a television set constitutes and reinterpreting our relationship with it. The fat and felt is much more unfamiliar to the viewers. They can only appreciate the significance of the materials, with prior knowledge of Joseph Beuys’s past. Both Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys’s works reject the traditional notion of aesthetics. They turned away from the craft of illusion making and creating beautiful images which are very much admired by the conservative public.

    Instead they initiated their own definitions of beauty which lies in the experimental nature of work and insistence in processes. Nam June Paik Joseph Beuys’s works inherits Dada’s audacity. It reacts by offering alternatives, by not playing by the rules. Beauty, in his works, is a mean of escaping from the issues and obligations of the day. He answered the need of the population, waking up from the shock of its economic social and cultural lethargy following the war, and showed a way to rise from the ashes that was as fun as it was holistic and spiritually challenging.

    Beuys believed that performance could evoke a spiritual response in audience, ultimately providing healing process. He sometimes compared his role to that of a shaman. His performances were ritualistic, incorporating powerful symbols of birth, death and transformation. One example of such performance is ‘I Like America and American Likes Me’. In this work, Beuys spent three days in a room with a coyote. Coyote was chosen as the subject matter as it has been seen as a powerful god by Native Americans. With the arrival of European settlers, the coyote was then seen as a pest to be exterminated.

    Beuys saw the debasement of the coyote as a symbol of damage done by the white man to the American continent and its native cultures. His performance was an attempt to heal some of these wounds. Beuys regularly performed a series of actions with his eyes continuously fixed on the coyote. At other times, he would rest or gather felt around him to suggest the figure of shepherd with his crook. The audience can observe the changes in the coyote’s behaviour throughout the three days, becoming cautious, detached, aggressive and sometimes companionable.

    They thereby witnessed the transformative power of Beuys’s performance, of how an act initiates a change. They then appreciates the beauty belies the unfamiliar rituals and his ideologies. Nam June Paik make use of the concept of moving image to express representational and abstract imagery through recorded and virtual technologies He is interested in articulating the expressive and compositional capacities of the electronic moving image. To achieve this, he utilise his understanding of the functioning of television and his ability to alter its properties enabled him to produce compelling, non-narrative segments of video.

    As a result, his work is given a dynamic life which moves, breathes and flows with pulsing excitement in real time. This allows his works to have greater aesthetic appeal as compared to the stagnant imageries of traditional mediums such as painting, and is more effective in engaging the audiences. One example of such works is ‘TV Garden’. In this work, about 30 sets of televisions are placed on their backs, sides and upside down on the floor in the midst of a large number of tropical plants. TV sets seem like exotic electronic flora in a lush garden of sight and sound.

    Colour, rather than scent, pulsates through the petals of these unnatural flowers as Global Groove is played on the screens. Global Grooves consists of a series of images created in 1973 using a video synthesiser that Paik invented with Suya Abe, a Japanese engineer. The synthesiser enabled Paik to mix, polarise, layer, colour and distort images from several video and TV sources to create dazzling arrays of colour and sound. ________________ (NJC Prelims 2009) 1. Family of Robot, Mother and Father by Nam June Paik, 1986 Single channel video sculpture with vintage television and radio casings and monitors

    203 x 156 x 53 cm, 226 x 139 x 52 cm 1. How has the artist used the materials to make this art work? (10) Family of Robot is a group of sculptures created using vintage televisions. These sculptures are personified and the title implies that the sculptures shared family ties like humans do. The series of work consists of three-generations of family members, and ‘Mother and Father’ is part of the set. In each sculpture, Paik removed the electronic equipment from antique televisions and replaced it with new television hardware activated by one or more video cassette players.

    New video tapes which are created by the state-of-the-art technology are produced by Paik for the family of robot. The images that appear in the male and female figures are drawn from the worldwide diversity of man’s cultural and ethnic families. The type of television selected is indicative of the generation of the family member, and depicted the characteristic of the generation. Mother and Father, has bodies made of the 1940s television sets, and heads made of television of the late 1950s. Evidently, their thinking is focused on the future.

    The series of work, seen in its entirety, show contrast in each generation as well as the interposition of the tradition and the modern, the eastern and western style. 1. What are the ideas on technology addressed by the artist? (10) 1. Assess the way that a Singaporean artist uses alternative materials and techniques in his or her works. (10) Tang Da Wu stands as a pivotal figure in the development of performance art in Singapore. He explores alternative ways of projecting pressing concerns regarding the environment within specific social or ethnic contexts.

    His major series include Horn Reconstructed from Rhino Drink and Tiger Whip, which comments on the near-extinction of these animals due to the consumption of animal parts following Chinese traditional beliefs. In the performance ‘They Poach the Rhino, Chop off his Horn and Make this Drink’,a paper-mache rhinoceros lies on the stage, surrounded by a winding spiral of bottles of Chinese herbal medicine (kanpo-yaku). Clad in a white costume, Tang Da Wu sets a white board outside the spiral of kanpo-yaku bottles, and writes a message for the audience to see.

    This performance is a requiem to the rhinoceroses who have been brought to the brink of extinction by being shot heedlessly for the use of their horns in herbal medicines. This work focuses on the rhinoceros, which has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching and indiscriminate killing. Rhinoceros horn is used in Chinese traditional medicine for its antipyretic (quelling fevers) and other properties, so by using antipyretic medicine bottles with an image of rhinoceros as the trademark horn, Tang symbolically reverses the process, creating a horn out of the medicine bottles.

    The medicinal bottles is intentionally arranged to take the shape of a horn which serves as a reminder of the killing of rhinoceros to attain the medicinal drink. Through of the careful selection of material and the manipulation of form, Tang prompts the viewers to reconsider the context inherent in the object. Through the dynamic positioning of the found object, the viewers are thereby able to make immediate connection to the underlying concept of the work.

    This work illustrates the whole idea of consumerism due to blind adherence to Chinese traditional beliefs and how it leads to the endangerment of the certain animal. He also questions how human would rather want medical benefits which are not even scientifically proven, than the protection of endangered animals. The process of re-constructing a horn from recycled medicine bottles could be seen as the artist’s urge for recycling efforts and the conservation of resources, which he may see as a mean of reversing the damages done to the environment.

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