Thursday, August 12, 2004
nam june paik
No artist has had a greater influence in imagining and realizing the artistic potential of video and television than Korean-born Nam June Paik. Through a vast array of installations, videotapes, global television productions, films, and performances, Paik has reshaped our perceptions of the temporal image in contemporary art.
"The world as recreated by Aloïse is cosmic and insubstantial, free of physical contingencies, in opposition to the old natural world she knew before her ‘death,’ that is before her illness. It is a supernatural world, theater of the Universe, thronged with immutable, hieratic actors whose deeds and feelings are expressed by the tiny hieroglyphic figures around them. Furthermore, their very essence is uncertain. They may be themselves and yet simultaneously represent something else. A woman may be herself and at the same time her icon … or a living lantern … or an allegory.
No wonder then that the domains of mediumistic revelation and psychotic paranoia overlap, or are sometimes indistinguishable, as in Jeanne Tripier's work. Each is, in its different way, an idiom deformed as a result of undergoing some form of excommunication. Each is also a dramatic instance of the person being possessed or inhabited ('squatted' in Michel Thevoz's words) by other voices whose provenance is uncertain. But although they come from a psychiatric context, Jeanne Tripier's smudged and blotched divinatory image-texts are no less 'prophetic' than the mediumistic scribbled words and figures from Victor Hugo's Guernsey seances.
The tremendous creative outpourings of the mediumistic artist Madge Gill began after her only daughter died at birth in 1919 and a subsequent illness during which she lost the sight in one eye. Her early life had been no less traumatic. Born in london to an unmarried mother, at the age of nine she was placed in an orphanage and subsequently sent to Canada as a farm servant. Gill returned to london when she was nineteen and before her marriage lived with an aunt, who introduced her Spiritualism. Gill's discovery of drawing was a direct result of attempts to contact her daughter and one of her sons, who had died during the influenza epidemic of 1918, the other side. She maintained that she was guided by a spirit she called Myrninerest and often signed works in that name. Her oeuvre ranges from postcards, produced after another in all-night sittings, to drawings covering immense rolls of calico, which she finished incrementally, earlier parts of the drawing becoming hidden as the fabric was rolled to reveal a new blank surface. At times Gill exhibited work at amateur art exhibitions in the East End of london, but rarely sold her creations, insisting that the belonged to her spirit guide