December 2006 Archives

December 20, 2006

Nam June Paik's Early Work


I used to live downstairs from Nam June Paik. I was too starstruck to ever talk with him at length, but we had friendly chats when we'd see each other in the stairway of our Little Italy loft building.

Once, I did manage to tell him how much I admired his pieces in the John Cage show that was going on over at the Guggenheim SoHo ["Rolywholyover: A Circus," still one of the most brilliant and exciting museum exhibitions I've ever seen. Incredible catalogue, too.] My favorite was and is TV Buddha, a nearly perfect conceptualized work comprised of a carved Buddha statue , a video camera, and a television. The statue sits enlightened and silent, endlessly watching itself on the screen.

TV Buddha is made even better by the allegedly offhand way it was created, as "wall filler" for a 1974 gallery show in New York, though I wouldn't be surprised if Paik was just being reflexively modest when the work was praised.

He made many versions and variations on the TV Buddha theme over the years, and I'd also imagine it could come to feel like a zen trap, a polite rut, especially for an artist whose work betrays an abiding affection for baroque dadaism and psychedelic media cacophony. TV Buddha feels like a kind of contemplative road less traveled.


The road Paik took instead, was the one he named, the Information Super-Highway, which was signalled by another seminal early piece, the 1973 TV show/control room happening/video art work, Global Groove. Produced with John Godfrey at WNET in New York, Global Groove is at once freakishly prescient and contemporary, and hilariously of its time.

It opens with the bold promise that we're living with right now: "This is a glimpse of the video landscape of tomorrow, when you will be able to switch to any TV station on the earth, and TV Guide will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book." Which is promptly followed by a groove challenged pair of disco dancers and every psychedelic FX trick in the 1973 TV producer's book. It's at once funny and sad to realize Global Groove's aesthetic has become the lingua franca of Manhattan's public access TV world. Hell, it's probably the same mixing board Paik & Godfrey used.

Paik's TV sculptures and giant video walls which are so popular/populist with museums and lobby decorators feel like continuations of Global Groove's groove, but it doesn't scale. Paik foresaw our TV-webby mediascape and reveled in it; I just wish and wonder if somewhere in Paik's mature-to-late career, away from the bombastic over-commissions, there's some underappreciated body of work that might enlighten us as to how we can live in this worldwide web.

See a photo of the first TV Buddha and watch the first few minutes of Global Groove on [mkz]
There's some Paik-related material on YouTube, but not as much as you'd hope [youtube]

December 14, 2006

Pics From Kyoto And Hong Kong

Just a couple of photos I took while in Kyoto and Hong Kong last week:

The Third Eye: Olafur Eliasson's installations in the world's Louis Vuitton windows. Here's Hong Kong, which required three to fill it up:


A vintage mid-century Japanese prefab house that looks surprisingly modern these days, and increasingly rare: post-war buildings don't tend to stick around in Japan this long:


I rather impulsively bought an ironing board at Muji, but with no practical way to take it home, I ended up leaving it at the hotel. It was a damn fine-looking ironing board, though, let me tell you.

I mention it because the same hoarding impulse struck me when I saw this eminently restorable black lacquer-finish credenza on the street in Kyoto. The backside was gorgeous, actually. Somehow, I managed to think through--and abandon--any ideas for shipping this bad boy before dragging it across the street to the hotel.

kyoto_vintage_credenza flickr photostream [flickr]

It's got a bit of that smug, self-congratulatory air that always seems to come through in behind the scenes films for commercials [I'm thinking in particular of the Sony Bravia bouncing ball ad guys]. But still, it's all we've got, and it's kind of fascinating.

Conceiving, speccing and constructing the sequence for "Cog" is hard enough, never mind actually shooting it in one, clean take. Here's the commercial again.

The funniest line so far from coverage of Miami Basel. It's from New York Mag's "Basel Blog," which reports that collectors have moved to buying work by safe artists from established galleries. Which is probably what it looks like if you airdrop into the art world and the only people you can identify are Larry Gagosian and Aby Rosen. They get namechecked in basically every post. Seriously.

Doing Good At Ralph Lauren, &c. &c. [nymag's basel blog]

Sara and Marc are so awesome.

The global street art blowout at 11 Spring Street organized by Wooster Collective opens tomorrow, and it runs through Sunday, 11-5 each day.

Artists from all over, including some who installed their work on the exterior of the once-enigmatic NoLiTa loft building, have been making new work inside. On Monday, demolition and condo conversion begins, though much of the art work may actually remain. From the NYT:

On Monday work will begin that will eventually seal most of the interior artwork behind pipes, wires and drywall.

“In a way the art is all going to disappear, but it’s also going to be sealed up in this incredible time capsule,” said Mr. Schiller.

It reminds me of the Warhol hidden somewhere in LeFrak City. Back in the day, Samuel LeFrak commissioned a then-still-unknown Andy Warhol to decorate the kitchen and bathroom of a model apartment in the then-new Queens apartment complex. The model was painted over, and then it was lost. Somewhere, in one of the 5,000-plus apartments, buried under nearly half a century of tenement white, is the first Warhol installation. And soon enough, the works of some of the world's greatest street artists will be buried under some hedge fund dude's sheetrock.

Last Hurrah for Street Art, as Canvas Goes Condo [nyt]
Wooster on Spring: The Ultimate Art Time Capsule [woostercollective, which also has extensive coverage of the 11 Spring project]
Fortune, 1989: Lost and Found, LeFrak's Warhol []

December 13, 2006

I'm Back. Did I Miss Anything?

Sorry, I was out of town. Did anything happen art-wise while I was gone?

On the film/editing front, the votes were in, and I'm pleased to announce a new addition to the team: a husky MacBookPro and a couple of new external drives for the road.

Thanks to everyone who shared their advice and insights. Ultimately, it was the memory and video processing requirements of Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro [and the slightly unwieldy size of the 17-inch version] that made the decision.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from December 2006, in reverse chronological order

Older: November 2006

Newer January 2007

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99