About the Exhibition
From the outset of his career, Nam June Paik (1932-2006, b. Seoul, South Korea) sought “the new, imaginative and humanistic ways of using our technology” (1969). With this exhibition of two major works, Nam June Paik—widely considered to be the most influential media artist of our time—examines two of the most significant technological innovations of the past century: the automobile and broadcast media.
This exhibition’s centerpiece is Transmission, a 33-foot-tall authentic transmission tower made in collaboration with laser expert and creative technician Norman Ballard. During the day, the tower’s rungs flash with vivid neon lights. Every evening from dusk until midnight, a trio of red, green, and blue lasers beams from the tip of the tower, bouncing off nearby mirrored surfaces to cast a colorful web around Rockefeller Center. In Paik’s hands, the laser—of interest to him since the late 1960s and the key element of his “post-video” work since the late 1990s—is more than a simple carrier of information. It is its own medium, carving visible lines and shapes into space and interacting with its physical surroundings.
Flanking Transmission at Rockefeller Center are sixteen cars from Paik’s 32 cars for the 20th century: play Mozart’s Requiem quietly. This array of classic automobiles represent the heyday of the American automotive industry, but it is a far cry from the traditional automobile trade show. Each car is painted silver, stripped of its engine, and filled with defunct audio-visual equipment. Near the cars one can hear Mozart’s Requiem, the composer’s final, unfinished work.