Reinstalling a Transcendent TV Artwork #ArtTuesday


Anxiety abounds when you are about to install a work by Nam June Paik. The master of media art created works that are as ephemeral as they are transcendent, constructed out of TV sets and recording devices that are no longer manufactured and, needless to say, generally irreplaceable.

So when Charlie Wylie, Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Curator of Photography and New Media, decided to re-install Paik’s T.V. Clock after nearly 10 years of being off view at the museum, he just kept thinking: “I have 24 backups.”

Lucky for Wylie, all 24 original TV sets functioned as designed, with television technician guru, Darryl Widman, having to only mildly re-align the wiring as the artist intended.

T.V. Clock is created out of Samsung TV sets from the 1980s and mounted upright on black pedestals, placed in a gentle arc across the exhibition space. Rather than have the TVs play from a videotape or disk, Paik manipulated their wiring so that a straight white line appears on each screen. Viewed together, the lines simulate the hands of a clock, each screen representing an hour of time, statically rotating its way across the installation.

For Paik, the television was an aesthetic tool through which to consider questions about time and reproducibility and how telecommunications shape our understanding of history and culture. Throughout his work, he considered what the TV was and what it could become, tackling both the technical and conceptual question of how information travels through clever manipulations of electronic media.

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