Nam June Paik *
By Jeremy Bailey
Nam June Paik saw technology as a form of communication. In his eyes consumer technologies like television were not one-way conduits for consumption but rather extensions of the body and of human culture. He even believed they could one day facilitate world peace and understanding.
I also believe that technology is a form of communication. In my view, however, it is less of an extension than an amputation and almost entirely circular. This is best demonstrated by looking at a generation of video art Nam June Paik helped initiate. Video art was first defined by artists that performed in their studios in front of cameras that were attached to monitors that reflected, in real time, the artists’ technologically mediated image back upon themselves. They called it performance for the camera. These artists made work that demonstrated what Rosalind Krauss identified as the Aesthetics of Narcissism, loosely described as a type of work in which the artist becomes self conscious as they watch themselves watching themselves. This psychological circuit resulted in the popular adoption of persona as an artistic strategy (When looking at an electronic mirror what else can you do but be critical of yourself?
My own work investigates this reflective circuit and the impact it has on the body and identity. In this century the computer has replaced the camera and the internet has replaced the television. The computer interface scrambles our reflections with an endless stream of data from the internet. More often than not the performer can no longer contain or understand their own reflection—the unconscious decision making processes of computer software have replaced a portion of their conscious mind. The resulting persona is that of a confused narcissistic and morally ambiguous fool. This is the character that I play in my performances and videos.
Though this point of view may appear cynical in response to Nam June Paik’s vision of a techno-utopia, it is actually the opposite. It is my sincere love for technology as a tool for expression that has lead me to create a persona so ignorant and naïve that this dream is still possible.
* This text was previously published in Mediascape, à pas de Nam June Paik, edited by Sooyoung Lee and Seongeun Kim (Yongin, NJP Art Center, 2011). Reprinted by permission of the author.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Bailey is a video and performance artist whose work is often confidently self-deprecating in offering hilarious parodies of new media vocabularies (Marisa Olson, Rhizome). His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and festivals internationally. Bailey received his MFA in Art Media Studies from Syracuse University in 2006. His work can be viewed, rented and acquired through Vtape in Toronto.