Global Groove by Nam June Paik, 1973, film still. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.
The Medium is the Message
Television Now and Then
1 August – 7 November
Nam June Paik (South Korea / USA), Carolee Schneemann (USA), Kevin Atherton (UK), George Barber (Guyana / UK), John Smith (UK), Jesse McLean (USA), Robyn Walton & Peter Cleveland (Aotearoa New Zealand), Janet Lilo (Ngāpuhi, Samoan, 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), also including 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.
Also featuring new work in The Booth by Zheng Nuanzhi
“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” so begins the opening titles of Nam June Paik’s pioneering work Global Groove (1973).
The Medium is the Message is an exhibition that marks sixty years since the first official public television broadcast in Aotearoa from Gus Fisher Gallery’s iconic heritage 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 to reflect on the role of television now.
The exhibition takes its title from a phrase coined by visionary philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan whose phrase “the medium is the message” 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, particularly 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 seminal 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 problematizes our much loved relationship with broadcasting.