The Medium is the Message: Television Now and Then


1 August – 12 December 2020


Nam June Paik

South Korea/USA


Carolee Schneemann



Kevin Atherton

United Kingdom


George Barber

Guyana/United Kingdom


John Smith

United Kingdom


Jesse McLean



Robyn Walton & Peter Cleveland

Aotearoa New Zealand


Janet Lilo

Ngāpuhi/Samoa/Niue/Aotearoa New Zealand


Joe Sheehan

Aotearoa New Zealand


Claudia Kogachi

Japan/Aotearoa New Zealand


Yvonne Todd

Aotearoa New Zealand


Edith Amituanai

Aotearoa New Zealand


Gordon H. Brown

Aotearoa New Zealand


“This is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow, when you will be able to switch to any TV station on the earth, and TV guides will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book.” This is the opening line of Nam June Paik’s Global Groove (1973).

The Medium is the Message marks sixty years since the first official public television broadcast in Aotearoa which took place on 1 June 1960 from Gus Fisher Gallery’s building as former radio and television studios in Tāmaki Makaurau. This pioneering moment of collective ingenuity and experimentation informs the exhibition which considers televisions past and present through rarely seen archival film footage and ambitious artworks by internationally renowned artists.

The phrase “the medium is the message” was coined by philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan and draws attention to the medium itself and its influence. For McLuhan, a new medium can change the image we have of our own bodies, and a medium like television demands the participation of the whole being. In McLuhan’s theories on technology, we are made aware of the non-neutrality of mediums like television.

A starting point for the exhibition is the work of Nam June Paik, often referred to as the father of video art. Paik was influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s theories on technology and his concept of the global village; a simultaneous happening or “all-at-once-ness” where society is interconnected by the influence of electronic technology. Pioneering the use of television and video in art, Paik used an experimental approach to counter the domination of public service and commercial television. This experimentation is epitomised in his work Global Groove (1973), a critical proposition in the form of a television programme where inter-cut sequences of music, dancing and artist performances occur through a kaleidoscopic and ever-changing environment. Encountering Paik’s Global Groove over 40 years on, we are welcomed into a new landscape where time is reduced to the present moment.

In 2020, our experience with television and broadcasting has irrevocably changed as has its position as a source for information. Forever altered by the internet, television has arguably taken on a secondary role – part entertainment, part information and part reality; how we choose to engage is a fluid entity no longer governed by our remote controls.

The Medium is the Message introduces a critical juxtaposition between public television and radio transmissions, and contemporary artistic responses. Navigating the choppy waters of news bulletins, television talent shows and much loved soap operas, The Medium is the Message proposes a line of continuity from the 1960s to the present day that both celebrates and problematises our much loved relationship with broadcasting.

The Medium is the Message includes material kindly donated from TVNZ Digital Production Library, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision TVNZ Collection, The University of Auckland’s Cultural Collections and Video Data Bank.



On our Doorstep: Reflecting on 60 Years of Television



Exhibition text + list of works



The People’s Communications Commission Report on Racist Broadcasting


Divyaa Kumar



The Medium is the Message


On our Doorstep: Reflecting on 60 Years of Television
August – December 2020 

Screening: Nam June Paik with introduction by Tobias Berger
1 August 2020

Behind the scenes of TVNZ’s former home
3 October 2020

Zheng Nuanzhi: Evening! with Jimmy Applause
13 October 2020

Kete aronui book club: Carolee Schneemann
15 October 2020

Film screening: Bastion Point: Day 507
24 October 2020

The absolute state of it; journalism today in Aotearoa
28 October 2020


Gus Fisher Gallery
74 Shortland Street
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Central 1010

Tuesday – Friday:
10am – 5pm
10am – 4pm