Opinion

Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Space Opera #1”

It seems fitting to kick off our Videodrome day of art videos with one from Nam June Paik, an early video artist from Korea whose multimedia sculptures and installations challenged the boundaries of art making in the 60s and 70s. Here, check out “Electronic Opera #1”, a short work featured in an early 70s PBS documentary awesomely titled The Medium is the Medium.

This super psychedelic video might look like a bad acid trip, but the piece plays with the thine line between meaning and meaninglessness, self-consciously mocking its own aesthetic. An extremely serious narrator introduces the video: “Nam June Paik born Seoul Korea, 1932. Composer of electronic music and experimenter in mixed media. His tools: magnets and junk televisions sets. His images: 3 hippies, a dancing model and national political figures.”

The result is a series of rainbow light lines curving across the screen, set to a spacey, plonky piece of synthesizer music — a partly tongue-in-cheek adventure into early cyberspace. The heads of 3 hippies fade into the blank background, and the camera pans around their faces. Get to the end of the video and the artist will clue you in to his own reading of the piece.

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