León Gallery International presents the works of the late Nam June Paik, the father of video art, on Oct. 22 at León’s latest space at Corinthian Plaza in Paseo de Roxas, Makati.
Photos by Bening Batuigas
Invasion of Bakelite Robots and other tales
ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - October 15, 2018 - 12:00am

Leon Gallery International presents ‘Nam June Paik in Manila’

You would think that someone considered as the founder of video art, someone associated with badass modern composer John Cage (who got his necktie cut by the same guy during a performance in Cologne), someone behind the infamous “TV Bra for Living Sculpture,” someone whose masterpiece is “TV Buddha” (feat. a statue of the Gautama contemplating its own image on closed-circuit TV) would be dead serious, a hermetic, brooding fellow like Joseph Beuys.

Not all the time, according to art collector Ken Hakuta. “Nam June Paik’s artworks are highly intellectual, cutting-edge and sophisticated. But he was also witty, humorous and self-deprecating.” Paik’s art makes fun of itself — not a lot of people know that.

Jaime Ponce de León says, “Nam June Paik is one of most relevant practitioners of contemporary art. Even in the ’70s, he was highly regarded by our own Filipino artists. And this is a landmark exhibition of Paik’s art, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.”

Hakuta — who is the executor of Nam June Paik’s estate and is the artist’s nephew — says that the trailblazing artist did not linger in any specific mind frame. “Whatever his latest idea was, that was his favorite. He would do something, then move on.” Hakuta loves the robots made of vintage Bakelite radios — there is one at Tate Modern, another at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sort of a commentary by Paik about man’s tenuous relationship with technology. “I also like ‘One Candle’ (with a live candle ensconced in a TV chassis). It’s very calming.”

Filipino art aficionados will get to see that “televised candle” firsthand along with other conceptual art pieces as León Gallery International presents the first Philippine exhibition of works by the Korean-American multimedia artist Nam June Paik (1932 to 2006) on Oct. 22, Monday, at its newest space at the ground floor, Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas, Makati, Metro Manila.

Lisa G. Nakpil of León Gallery reenacts one of Paik’s performance art pieces.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery, which has represented the Nam June Paik estate since 2015. (Larry Gagosian reportedly gave the project his nod without much hesitation.)

“Nam June Paik is a game changer,” says Jaime Ponce de León, who adds that architect Anton Mendoza designed the León Gallery International space. “Paik is one of most relevant practitioners of contemporary art. Even in the ’70s, he was highly regarded by our own Filipino artists. And this is a landmark exhibition, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.” 

Ken Hakuta, executor of Nam June Paik’s estate.

Hakuta believes that Paik’s philosophy and artistic beliefs resonate up to this day, especially with Filipinos who are social media savvy.

“Nam June was a visionary. He was preoccupied with the concept of personalizing media for onself.” And, Ken adds, that is what has been accomplished with YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and whatnot. “Those are people’s personal TV channels. Nam June coined the term ‘electronic superhighway.’ He saw how media would link the entire world.” So, you could say we are living in a world that is an enfleshment of Nam June Paik’s vision.

A survey of Paik’s art

“How in the world could someone think of all that? In the Seventies, mind you. And the Internet did not exist back then. The personal computer had just become available.”

“Nam June Paik in Manila” will feature 25 to 30 pieces from 1983 to 2005, including several iconic objects that blur the lines between art and technology, the past and the future, philosophy, fame and commercialism.

Aside from “One Candle” (which is about to go on a museum tour), “TV Buddha” and the “Bakelite Robot,” also to be featured are Paik’s works on canvas, entire video cameras and radio-televisions that combine graffiti elements as well as smiling television sets with instantly recognizable color bars. Others feature miniature screens embedded in them amid calligraphy of ancient poetry. Images of his fellow artists from the Fluxus movement (such as its founder George Maciunas as well as longtime muse Charlotte Moorman and counter-culture conspirator Joseph Bueys) will also be on view.

Visitors should expect to see prophetic snapshots of Nam June Paik’s road trips on the electronic superhighway, his fusion of art and technology — and much of the conceptual wit, too.

Ken Hakuta recalls, “Once I was with Nam June in New York, and he was writing some Korean text on one of his paintings. A lady visitor went to him and asked what do those words mean. Nam June answered, ‘It means, “I’M WORKING WITH KEN NOW AND I’M BORED.”’ I just never knew what he was thinking.”  

*  *  *

For information, visit https://leon-gallery.com.

LEON GALLERY INTERNATIONAL NAM JUNE PAIK
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