National Gallery Singapore stages a major survey of Nam June Paik (1932 – 2006) in a landmark exhibition of the artist who predicted the future of communication and the Internet.
The international tour of Nam June Paik: The Future Is Now concludes in Singapore, its only Asian stop, after it kicked off at London’s Tate Modern in 2019, then toured Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition celebrates Paik’s five decades of visionary and playful practice through more than 180 works across all media. Through the early adoption of audio and visual images in his works, he manipulated technology and experimented with the concept of media.
In a groundbreaking move, TV monitors were evolved into radical audio-visual sculptures, which no artist had done before. By spotlighting his multidisciplinary and collaborative career which incorporated art, music, performance, and technology, in conversation with philosophies and traditions from Eastern and Western cultures, this retrospective reveals Paik’s prescience and enduring inspiration.
One of the first truly global artists, Paik was born in Seoul, and practiced in Japan, Germany, and the United States. Always innovative, Paik had played a leading role in bridging the gap between art and technology by transforming video into an artist’s medium and exploring the potential of media-based art as early as the 1950s, earning him the recognition as “pioneer of video art”. He coined the term “electronic superhighway” in 1974, when he predicted the future of communication and the Internet, where mass media would play a vital part to transform the way people connect and communicate – the very future the world is living in, right now.
During the nascent stage of globalization and connectivity, he collaborated with various avant-garde composers like John Cage and featured cultural icons such as David Bowie alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto; he also deliberately strayed out of genres to present art, music, performance, and technology in ground-breaking ways.
Paik imagined a future where electronics and nature coexist in TV Garden (1974-1977/2002), an installation comprising numerous CRT TV sets placed amidst lush foliage.
Another iconic work is Sistine Chapel (1993), which envelops the audience in mesmerizing visuals and booming audio to capture the sublime visual experience at the Vatican’s famous chapel. And before the world warmed up to robots, Paik created John Cage Robot II (1995), a memorable robot figure adorned with piano hammers and keys, that recalls Cage’s radical work, 4’33”, comprising three movements of silence.
Dr. Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, said, “Beyond illuminating Paik’s artistic legacy that impacted visual culture and generations of artists today, Nam June Paik: The Future Is Now also compels visitors to reflect on their own relationship with technology, as well as its effects and repercussions on society.”
Nam June Paik: The Future Is Now is proudly supported by Lead Partner Singtel, Strategic Partners Cultural Matching Fund, and Singapore Tourism Board.
Nam June Paik: The Future Is Now will run from 10 Dec. 10 to March 27 at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery and the Basement Concourse Level (The Spine Hall and Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery, B1).