Nam June Paik: An Exhibition through Time

The immersive and multisensory world of Nam June Paik – “father of video art” and futurist – awaits visitors at National Gallery Singapore this December as they stage their highly anticipated international art show this year, Nam June Paik: The Future is Now. 

This much-awaited exhibition makes its last stop here in Singapore (which is also, fun fact, its first and only Asian venue). You can expect an electrifying, immersive show that touches on themes such as technology, music and religion, as well as how all of them intersect. 

By the ‘father of video art’ Nam June Paik, this exhibition surveys over five decades of his pioneering work in the use of television and video in art. Born in Seoul in 1932, Nam June Paik was a key figure in the avant-garde movements and one of the first artists who made it internationally. He is credited for coining the term ‘electronic superhighway’, which foretold transformations in the way people would communicate in the networked age of the internet. His insights are reflected in his works, making it an exciting experience to take a peek into his mind through the exhibition. 

Nam June Paik: Art Installation 1
Nam June Paik, Sistine Chapel (installation view, Nam June Paik, SFMOMA, 2021) Photography by Andria Lo

With an expansive range of Paik’s work in the form of over 180 installations, projections, modified televisions, video sculptures, robots and other inventive contraptions, it is no understatement to say that stepping into this exhibition will transport you into another world. You are sure to come away with a different perspective, and your experience is sure to be fruitful. 

If you haven’t quite gotten the scale of the exhibition, then what if I told you that it has already travelled to Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, London’s Tate Modern and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art? But, on the other hand, if you’re bored at home and want something educational and a little different from conventional experiences, don’t miss this exhibition when it comes. 

Nam June Paik: Art Installation 2
Nam June Paik, installation view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Photography by Adam Jacobs Photography Photography by Andria Lo

This exhibition will be available from 10 December 2021 to 27 March 2022, from 10am-7pm at the Singtel Exhibition Galleries and Basement Concourse in the National Gallery, so you still have quite a lot of time to mark your calendars. Not to mention, there’s an early bird 1-for-1 promotion happening from now till 31 October 2021. Do note that ticket prices start from $15 without the discount, but for all those still holding on to their Rediscover Vouchers, you can use that to purchase your tickets too. So, book your tickets here as soon as you can!

Afterlude – Prelude: Responses to Nam June Paik 

And, that’s not all the news I have to share with you. Prompted by Nam June Paik’s global satellite projects and the surge in remote communication due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Afterlude – Prelude: Responses to Nam June Paik features a series of programmes that explore the legacy of Paik’s texts in performances, readings and artistic interventions. 

A curated list of over 20 artists from all over the world will be responding to and making their unique contributions around Paik’s influential texts and words, highlighting reflections across his career that are usually downplayed as just simple anecdotes and pithy sayings. They will be focusing on specific texts, and there will also be a curated list of ‘responders’ and performers, making it a more interactive experience. 

Here are some of the featured artists that you can look forward to hearing from:

Prompted by Nam June Paik’s global satellite projects and the surge in remote communication due to the Covid-19…

Posted by National Gallery Singapore on Thursday, September 9, 2021

Shadow of a Doubt
Yuen Chee Wai (Singapore), 2021, 17 minutes
Response to Nam June Paik’s Art and Music

Yuen Chee Wai references Paik’s words, “Without electricity, there can be no art,” in this video recording of a sound work. Yuen builds on Paik’s examination of the television as a canvas by interpreting and mapping that television canvas as sound.  This two-part performance will begin with the interface between the TV and text, before segueing into a performance where Yuen will present a response using a cassette tape, prepared guitar and other instruments.

A Taxi Uncle Symphony: 13 Ways of Taking A Taxicab
weish (Singapore), 2021, 16 minutes
Response to Nam June Paik’s About the Exposition of the music

A Taxi Uncle Symphony: 13 Ways of Taking A Taxicab is a symphony created from audio recordings of unwavering and anonymous taxi drivers’ voices, discreetly collected by the artist over a long period of time. The piece will be presented in several movements, each exploring and embodying Paik’s philosophy of democratising and liberating art creating — “music by the people, of the people.” I’ve personally never heard of something quite like this before, and it definitely seems unique. I’m looking forward to seeing how taxi driver’s voices can be made into music!

Earth Rhythms
Ayumi Paul (Berlin), 2020, 28 minutes
Response to Nam June Paik’s Symphony No 5

Earth Rhythms is a series of video works that document a performance and ritual. Ayumi’s video works appear to reflect the notion of eternity, as inspired by Paik’s poem, Symphony No. 5, where he said, “The Eternity-cult is the longest disease of mankind.” In Earth Rhythms, we learn the process of listening and playing according to the various motions and transitions throughout a day, and how it ultimately defines and leads the act in making music.

𝘈𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘶𝘥𝘦-𝘗𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘶𝘥𝘦: 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘕𝘢𝘮 𝘑𝘶𝘯𝘦 𝘗𝘢𝘪𝘬 – 𝘙𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘶𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘋𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩: 𝘍𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘔𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 by Lynn Lu (London) and…

Posted by National Gallery Singapore on Thursday, September 9, 2021

Raisins in the Audience Dough: First Movement
Lynn Lu (London) & Melinda Lauw (Singapore), 2021, 21 minutes
Response to Nam June Paik’s Charlotte Moorman: Chance and Necessity

Paik’s 1992 text, Charlotte Moorman: Chance and Necessity, forms the basis for Raisins in the Audience Dough: First Movement. With Moorman being Paik’s active collaborator, Melinda Lauw and Lynn Lu reference little-known elements of the scores she performed, the audacity she displays on stage, and her creative input to form a collection of vignettes. Filmed across the UK and in Singapore, audiences will experience visual poetry with the video emulating Paik’s signature choppy style of juxtaposing disparate video clips.

These are just a few of the many featured artists in the programme, so you can look forward to many more! If you’re looking for a bit of change of pace, then tuning in to this live stream will definitely be worth it for you! 

Just a fun fact for all the art lovers out there, the title of the programme references Paik’s eponymous text on his seminal 1963 work Exposition of Music – Electronic Television, as well as the end of Paik’s retrospective at SFMOMA and the “prelude” to its final venue at the Gallery. 

Several hours of material will be livestreamed from SFMoMA and National Gallery Singapore from 17 September 2021 to 19 September 2021, from 11am-6pm. You’ll be able to access the livestream online either through the Gallery’s Facebook (available from 18-19 September 2021) or SFMoMA’s page (available from 17-19 September 2021).

Visuals courtesy of National Gallery Singapore, Andria Lo and Adam Jacobs Photography.

Wan Xin Ng

A film student who loves cats, books and games!

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