Curating Living Archives with Judit Bodor in Dundee

A series of workshops titled Curating Living Archives organized by Dr Judit Bodor (Baxter Fellow Curatorial Practice) and Adam Lockhart (Lecturer in Media Arts, media archivist) at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at University of Dundee, explores challenges and approaches toward the care for the *unruly* archives of contemporary art in academic (rather than in the museum) environment. In this series, I co-convened a workshop titled “Curation as Expanded Conservation” with Judit Bodor and delivered a talk on the intersection of curatorial and conservation cultures, titled “What does the work want?”

How do curation and conservation intersect when it comes to the presentation of post-1960s time-based artworks emerging from processes of what Lucy Lippard described as ‘the dematerialisation of the art object’? While in the case of works based on performance and installation each act of exhibiting – that is display or activation of an artwork – may already involve some aspects of preservation, not all preservation aims at displaying artworks. In this workshop, co-convened by Dr Judit Bodor and Dr Hanna B. Hölling, and with contribution from artist/curator Prof André Stitt and Benjamin Sebastian and Joseph Morgan Schofield from ]performance s p a c e[, we will examine how the intersection of curation and conservation might productively contribute to the way we engage with and conceptualize ephemeral practices. We will explore how curatorial acts and gestures are always reliant on factors such as the situatedness of curatorial knowledge and the limitations and/or excesses of the archive, and how they problematize and alter, if not derail, our understanding of the ongoing lives of artworks. What does it mean to curate and/or conserve an artwork? Can an artwork be conceived apart or always already in relation to curatorial and conservation practices – as an entanglement of many different hands and minds? Expect lively presentations by workshop leaders followed by group interactions.

The talks will be made available publically soon.

New Essay: Unpacking the Score: Notes on the Material Legacy of Intermediality

Published in the new issue of On Curating devoted to the topic of Fluxus, this essay, “Unpacking the Score: Notes on the Material Legacy of Intermediality,” seeks to build a theory of score-based works different from traditional approaches in which the score becomes a fPublished in the latest edition of On Curating, dedicated to the topic of Fluxus, this essay aims to establish a novel theory of score-based works that deviates from traditional approaches, wherein the score is merely a product of the performance’s archive. The essay delves deep into the ontology of the work, exploring its materiality and ontogenesis, which are regulated by indeterminacy and openness. The central question at the heart of this inquiry is how to perceive a score-based work as an emerging form, rather than a predetermined one, always on the cusp between the virtual and the actual. Furthermore, the essay raises crucial questions concerning the pursuit of such works and the ethics of care surrounding them.

Access the article here or download the whole On Curating issue here.

George Brecht, The Case, 1959.

VIDEO DIGITAL COMMONS – talk at the Nam June Paik Art Center Seoul

탈-보존: 백남준의 가상 아카이브

(Korean version below)

This paper, delivered on the occasion of The Gift of Nam June Paik 13 at the Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, South Korea (and available as recording below), offers insights into the different modes of existence of, and understanding, the archive. I propose an archive that encompasses both time and material—an index of evolving attitudes toward objects and subjects, the contin­gency of time, discourse, and culture. The archive participates in creating the identity, and maintaining the continuity, of works of art. In its physical form, it documents the work’s past manifestations—in reports, instructions, scores, contracts, correspondence, and manuals. The physical archive is completed and complemented by what I call the virtual archive, that is, an archive that takes on a non-physical dimension. The virtual archive harbors tacit knowledge, memory, skill, and technique, but also meta-knowledge related to the archive’s internal functionality.

Works of art, I argue, are actualized from such physical-virtual archive. To explain this, I will implement the dialectic of the virtual and actual derived from the philosophical projects of Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. The actualization of an artwork is not one-directional. Rather, the archive is recursive, oriented toward both the past and the future—it is a dynamic source that sustains the artworks’ identity. Our engagement with the archive, therefore, becomes an active and creative “presencing’” of artworks, contingent on various cultures, attitudes and affordances of those interacting with the archive. 

How does the digital archive come into play? The second part of my presentation will explore how the multiplicity of existing versions, variations and variants of Paik’s video works—fragments and instances, remixes and citations but to the same extent the variety of his recordings’ formats, such as 1/2 inch, 1 inch and 2 inch tapes, 8mm and Super 8 films, laserdiscs, VHS, Betacam SP and U-Matic, prompt us to rethink the traditional museological approaches to the care for works of art. For a considerable time, these approaches have cultivated the concepts of material preservation and truthfulness to the singular material and authentic original emergent in the effect of an intentional act. I will argue that, firstly, the versatility of Paik’s filmic and video media renders these traditional museological approaches obsolete. Secondly, and most importantly, the actualization of these works from the archive—if done creatively by employing the digital and analogue research tools— might bring about new imagination of what video might become in the vein of what I name a critical, experimental post-preservation.

Post-preservation will be conceived as intertwinement of discursive and physical practices bound with the domain and activity of the archive, which becomes, rather than a realm of fixation and stasis, a condition of possibility for these works’ change and survival. In other words: Paik’s virtual archive, potentially.

이 글은 아카이브가 존재하는 여러 가지 양식, 그리고 아카이브의 이해에 통찰을 제공한다. 나는 시간과 물질—객체와 주체에 대한 계속 진화하는 태도의 지표들, 시간 속에서 일어나는 우발적 사건, 담론, 문화—모두를 아우르는 아카이브를 제안하려 한다. 아카이브는 예술 작품의 정체성을 만들거나 지속성을 보장해준다. 아카이브는 그 물리적인 형태—보고서, 안내문, 악보, 계약서, 서신, 설명서—안에 작품의 과거 현시를 기록하고 증명한다. 이러한 물리적 아카이브는 내가 ‘가상 아카이브’라 부르는 것, 다시 말해 비물질적 차원을 취하고 있는 아카이브에 의해 완성되며 보완된다. 가상 아카이브는 암묵지나 기억, 뛰어난 솜씨, 기법뿐만 아니라 아카이브의 내적 기능과 관련된 메타 지식까지 품고 있다.

나는 예술 작품이 이러한 물리적-가상적 아카이브를 통해 잠재력을 발현한다고 본다. 이를 설명하기 위해 앙리 베르그송과 질 들뢰즈의 철학에서 파생된 ‘가상’과 ‘실제’의 변증법을 수행할 것이다. 아카이브를 통한 예술 작품의 실현은 일방향적이지 않다. 아카이브는 과거와 미래 모두를 향하고 있기에 재귀적이다—이는 작품의 정체성을 떠받치고 있는 역동적인 원천이다. 그러므로 우리가 아카이브에 관여하는 일은 작품의 활발하고 창조적인 ‘존재하기(presencing)’가 되며, 이러한 존재하기는 아카이브와 상호작용하는 이들의 다양한 문화, 태도, 행동 유도성(affordance)에 따라 달라진다.

디지털 아카이브는 어떻게 작동하는가? 2부 발제에서는 백남준 비디오 작업의 여러 버전이나 변형, 이형들—예컨대 프래그먼트(비디오 작업의 일부분), 인스턴스(비디오 작품들의 다양한 버전), 리믹스(편집이나 녹화 등으로 섞인 기록), 사이테이션(다른 작업을 차용하거나 다른 작업의 소스로 재인용된 클립들)을 포함해 1/2 인치, 1인치, 2인치 테이프, 8mm와 수퍼 8 필름, 레이저디스크, VHS, 베타캠 SP, 유매틱과 같은 다양한 레코딩 형식들—이 어떻게 우리로 하여금 작품을 다루는 박물관학의 전통적인 접근법을 재고하게 만드는지 살펴볼 것이다. 이러한 접근 방식은 상당한 시간 동안 물질적 보존, 단일 물질로서의 진실성 등의 개념을 구축해왔다. 아울러 이는 의도적 행위의 결과로 생성된 진정한 원본이라는 개념도 함께 정립해왔다. 나는 첫째로 백남준의 영상 매체가 가진 다변성이 전통적인 박물관학의 접근법을 시대에 뒤떨어진 것으로 만든다고 주장할 것이다. 둘째, 이것이 가장 중요한 지점인데, 아카이브에서 백남준의 다변적인 작업들을 구현하는 일은 내가 비판적이며 실험적인 탈-보존적(post-preservation) 아카이브라고 한 것의 맥락에서 비디오 작업은 무엇이 될 수 있는지에 관하여 새로운 상상을 유발할지도 모른다.

탈-보존은 아카이브의 도메인이나 그곳에서 일어나는 움직임으로 묶이는, 산만하고 물리적인 실천들의 얽힘처럼 보일지도 모른다. 그것은 고정되고 정지된 어떤 영역이 아니라 백남준의 비디오 작업이 변화하며 생존하기 위한 가능성의 조건이다. 다시 말해, 이것은 어쩌면 가능할지도 모르는 백남준의 가상 아카이브일 것이다.

Assembling a Work of Art: An Annotated History of Fluxfilm No. 1

This wonderful “reprint” of three chapters of Revisions just appeared in the 11th issue of the online Journal MAP – Media, Archive, Performance, section “Bewegliche Zugänge: Werk-Geschichten und temporär genutzte Orte.”

This is an annotated reprint that features a new intro and conclusions, along with several images from the exhibition Revisions-Zen for Film curated by me at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York in 2015-16.

I owe my gratitude to the journal editor Prof Barbara Büscher for pursuing this reprint and to Franz Anton Cramer for his work on this publication. Big thanks to Daniel Lee, Director of Publishing at Bard for his permission to reprint and to Carolyn Brown for her invaluable editorial support.

To access this article, follow this link.

I hope you will enjoy the encounter with Revisions here as much as I did.

My contribution to Nam June Paik Pre Bell Man: Eine Ikone der Medienkunst

Here is an excellent publication titled Nam June Paik Pre Bell Man: Eine Ikone der Medienkunst that features the conservation and restoration of a multimedia installation Pre Bell Man by Nam June Paik at the Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt. It emerged from critical debates surrounding the issues of returning this canonical work to life in which I participated amongst many brilliant colleagues and speakers, Wulf Herzogenrtah, Bernhard Serexhe, Helmut Gold, Franziska Stöhr, and others. The book involves very short excerpts from the symposium, curator’s and restorer’s accounts, and beautiful illustrations of the conservation/restoration works conducted on Pre Bell Man. The symposium webpage is accessible here.

“Paik, Musically: Fluxus, Stockhausen, Cage” has been published in Korean and English

My essay “Paik, Musically: Fluxus—Stockhausen—Cage” for the online catalog of a research project on Nam June Paik at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, has just been published. The publication is bilingual, English and Korean. I am thrilled to find myself in such a distinguished, international company of authors: René Block, Byeongwon Ha, Sungook Hong, Eunji Kim, Manfred Montwé, Jasia Reichardt, Shinya Watanabe and Gregory Zinman. My sincerest thanks to Eunji Park and and Deoksun Park for the invitation to contribute to this project and to what will become a physical book accompanying a Paik exhibition next year. Looking forward to seeing the exhibition!

Poster for the second Avant-Garde Annual Festival of New York, 1964. Ha YoungJun Collection.

My review of We Are in Open Circuits now available in English – Metropolis M

Archival activations — Writings by Nam June Paik 

25.05.2020 | FEATURE — Hanna B. Hölling

We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik (2019) terminates a long silence in publishing primary sources related to Nam June Paik’s work. The volume sheds new light on Paik’s artistic-philosophical project which is currently on view in the traveling exhibition Nam June Paik: The Future is Now soon to reopen at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

What does it mean to work across media and genres utilizing cutting edge technologies to produce artistic work? What does it mean to compose works “unusually” rather than to follow a pre-imagined ideal? Can assembling the world from found materials, embracing chance and error, and tinkering with what is already given become an alternative to the conventional modes of creation?

Nam June Paik is rightly acknowledged as a pioneer and propagator of the use of new technologies to generate works that expanded our understanding of what an artwork is, what it does, and how it perseveres over time despite its technological transformations. Notably an action performer and grant experimenter of television in his early years— his emergent intermedia practice owed much to his musical and aesthetic studies in Japan and Munich as well as to his involvement in the avant-garde and electronic music and Fluxus in Germany— Paik spent most of his adult time in New York adapting the language of video and television as an artistic means. The works he created, and these which rest dormant in archival sketches, writerly drafts, and visual mock-ups, speak to his immense ambition and will to experiment with the potentialities offered by then little-explored electronic media.

The works Paik created speak to his immense ambition and will to experiment with the potentialities offered by then little-explored electronic media

Nam June Paik installeert TV Buddha in het Stedelijk Museum. Foto: Rene Block

Paik ranged widely in his selection of materials and the interdisciplinarity of his activities. He challenged the common understanding of an artwork as a physical object and how an artist might relinquish uniqueness and singularity in favor of producing many versions of his works. Among Paik’s greatest innovations—and among the greatest challenges to traditional collecting, conservation, and presentation—was his rejection of the singular authentic object, in support of which he habitually released work in numerous versions, variations, and clones. Moreover, Paik’s open-ended creative process allowed for modifications and interventions long after his artworks began their life as part of a museum collection—an issue that became increasingly familiar, if not problematic, to the custodians of the so-called “new media.”

Reading through Paik’s collected writings, one gets a chance to interpret his works on display in a new light. For instance, Paik’s instructions and scores reprinted in this volume render their realization—the physical manifestations of his artworks—repeatable by liberating them from the obligation to persist in one ongoing, unique manifestation. At least two installations on view at the Stedelijk follow this logic: TV Garden, 1974 (a techno-ecological garden featuring a video Global Groove) and TV Buddha, 1974 (a minimalistic, sculptural ensemble including a Buddha statue gazing at its televisual image displayed in real-time on a monitor via a closed-circuit video). A reading of certain media installations in light of their historical-ontological proximity to conceptual art allows to build a parallel between these conceptual tendencies, score-based works, and installation instructions. Rather than limit these art­works to the conditions of installation art—space, viewer, temporality—we can approach them as intrinsically conceptual works: based on a concept conveyed in instructions or a score and executed by others in an extension of the notion of collaboration. This “execu­tion by the others” imposes a new challenge on conservation and curation. Whereas cura­tors appear to enjoy increasing interpretative freedom in executing these works—for instance, making the curatorial decision to reinstall TV Garden along the ramp of the Guggenheim Museum or in a more confined, rectangular space of K21 in Düsseldorf—conservators often remain trapped in the convention of fidelity to the material and its initial occurrence. Strikingly, TV Buddha, which was to be replaced by a similar, less antique statue and a monitor during a renovation at the Stedelijk, had to remain in its physical form as a material “original.” On the other side of this spectrum, the recent manifestation of Paik’s multimedia work Sistine Chapel, 1993, at Tate Modern functions today as a free curatorial interpretation rather than a genuine reconstruction (that is, one that follows the reliance on the sameness of materials, technologies and the parameters of time and space).

Nam June Paik, Hommage aan Stanley Brouwn, 1984. Collectie Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Foto: Peter Tijhuis

Nam June Paik, One Candle / Candle Projection, 1989. Tentoonstellingskopie, met dank aan de Nam June Paik Estate.

The MIT volume of 445 pages extends these objectual observations to the realm of the written word (mainly in, or translated into, English—a wish allegedly expressed by Paik). The readers encounter Paik’s vivid intellect in a variety of notated formats and forms: From “speculative writings” that entail Paik’s canonical texts such as “Exposition of Music” (1963), “Afterlude to the Exposition of Experimental Television” (1963) or “Electronic Video Recorder” (1965) to less familiar haiku-style scores, work and performance instructions, scripts and plans for new projects, commentaries and letters to his friends and mentors.

The writings reveal Paik as an intensely political person. Filtered through his intellectually and geographically nomadic, always questioning and critical attitude, his commentaries on culture and politics create a fascinating picture of the time in which he was active. His modest, unassuming manner and a charismatic willingness to collaborate and share credit afforded him opportunities to realize large-dimensional projects, such as his intricate video walls and complex satellite pieces. As we move through the book, the editors offer introductions and commentaries on Paik’s projects that help contextualize the original sources.

Paik’s modest, unassuming manner and a charismatic willingness to collaborate and share credit afforded him opportunities to realize large-dimensional projects, such as his intricate video walls and complex satellite pieces

The book does not amend Paik’s often idiosyncratic formulations, his wandering between various languages and symbolic systems of language and notated music. The many pages of reprinted documents provide a fascinating insight into Paik’s restless spirit, his preferred modes of inscription and annotation, his circling around concepts and their active reworking on the page often marked by endless amendments.

Although the volume credits other sources, such as, among others, the archives Sohm and Beuys and the papers of the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, it largely—and successfully—builds upon materials drawn from Nam June Paik Papers. Since 2009 housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as a gift of the Nam June Paik Estate, this collection is notably the richest source of archival materials spanning almost the entirety of Paik’s oeuvre. Working through Paik Papers in the fall of 2019 somewhat simultaneously with the appearance of Paik’s collected writings, I glimpsed a world of his creative process shaped by a restless mind. Instructions, plans, screenplays, scripts, invoices, and endless lists presented a vast realm of Paik’s activities impossible to order in any representable, finished register. One of the benefits that comes from the great effort of selective ordering such idiosyncratic, versatile life project like Paik’s into a collected volume is that it offers an apparently complete, even if only momentary, overview of his intellectual effort. This non-definite, assembled result is an attempt to “mount a few new antennae on the tower of Paik’s oeuvre as signals to others,” as Zinman aptly puts it. The editors master this task in an elegant manner providing the reader with an unprecedented opportunity to delve into Paik’s scripted cosmos.

Nam June Paik, TV-Buddha, 1974. Collectie Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Foto Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

Zaaloverzicht Nam June Paik – The Future is Now, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (14 maart t/m 23 augustus 2020). Foto: Peter Tijhuis

Zaaloverzicht Nam June Paik – The Future is Now, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (14 maart t/m 23 augustus 2020). Foto: Peter Tijhuis

Writings based on archival sources, their selection, assemblage and ordering from the chaos of multiple spaces and loci, are never objective, impartial or unbiased. Like an interpreter of a musical score, a scholar, curator or for that matter any activator of these materials actualizes the archive according to his or her interests, background, education and knowledge. The archive is never neutral; it not only reflects the episteme of the times of its activation, but it also further determines it. The archive—understood here as a totality of materials left behind by an artist—conceals as much as it reveals. Certain areas of knowledge cannot be activated for political, social or economic reasons. Various realms of the archive remain unavailable due to geographical or personal constraints.

In We Are in Open Circuits, certain motifs in Paik’s writings reflect earlier thoughts or act as “protentions” (in Husserlian sense) to those yet to be explored. This logic of activating and working through the concepts by using what is already given is also intrinsic to artworks such as TV Buddha, nota bene the first of Paik’s work to enter a public collection – the Stedelijk. Paik initially conceived TV Buddha to fill a gap in one of his exhibitions at the Bonino Gallery in New York. When the Stedelijk museum acquired it, the former director of the museum Edy de Wilde asked that the piece be unique. “I have too many new ideas to devote my time for the repetition of an old work,” Paik responded. In the end, TV Buddha spawned perhaps the largest series of works in Paik’s oeuvre. We don’t mind—one simply can’t get enough.


NAM JUNE PAIK: THE FUTURE IS NOW is at view at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam until August 23, 2020. The museum will re-open on June 1.

We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik,edited by John G. Hanhardt, Gregory Zinman and Edith Decker-Phillips, The MIT Press 2019

My review of We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik published in Metropolis M – in Dutch

Metropolis M has just published my review of the new edited volume We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik, edited by Gregory Zinamn, John Hanhardt and Edith Decker-Phillips. The review includes insights into the Paik’s traveling exhibition, Nam Juen Paik: The Future is Now, soon to be open at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The essay, titled “Archiefactiveringen” (Engl. Archival Activations) discusses what does it mean to work across media and genres utilizing cutting edge technologies to produce artistic work? What does it mean to compose works “unusually” rather than to follow a pre-imagined ideal? Can assembling the world from found materials, embracing chance and error, and tinkering with what is already given become an alternative to the conventional modes of creation?

An excerpt from the publication is attached below. English version will follow this summer online at Metropolis M.

Wat betekent het om artistiek werk te maken in verschillende media en genres, en met geavanceerde technologieën? Wat betekent het om werken op een ‘ongewone’ manier te componeren in plaats van een vooraf ingebeeld ideaal te volgen? Kan het samenstellen van de wereld uit gevonden materialen, het omarmen van toeval en falen, en knutselen met dat wat gegeven is, een alternatief zijn voor de conventionele vormen van creatie?

              Nam June Paik wordt terecht gezien als een pionier in het gebruik van nieuwe technologieën om werken te maken die ons begrip van wat een kunstwerk is, wat het doet en hoe het de tand des tijds doorstaat ondanks technologische transformaties, heeft uitgebreid. In zijn vroege jaren was hij vooral een performer en experimenteerde hij met televisie. Zijn opkomende crossmediale praktijk had veel te danken aan zijn muzikale en artistieke studies in Japan en München, evenals aan zijn betrokkenheid bij de avant-gardistische en elektronische muziek, en Fluxus in Duitsland. Paik bracht het grootste deel van zijn tijd door in New York om de taal van video en televisie in te zetten als artistiek medium. De kunstwerken die hij maakte en de schetsen, aantekeningen en visuele mock-ups uit archieven tonen zijn immense ambitie en behoefte om te experimenteren met de mogelijkheden die de toen nog weinig toegepaste elektronische media te bieden hadden.

Paik gebruikte een brede selectie aan materialen en artistieke disciplines. Hij daagde het algemene begrip van een kunstwerk als een fysiek object uit en onderzocht hoe een kunstenaar afstand kan doen van uniciteit en singulariteit door het produceren van meerdere versies van een werk. Eén van de grootste innovaties van Paik – en één van de grootste uitdagingen voor de traditionele manier van verzamelen, conserveren en presenteren – was zijn afwijzing van het unieke authentieke object; hij maakte gewoonlijk werk in talloze versies, variaties en kopieën. Bovendien stond Paiks open creatieve proces wijzigingen en ingrepen toe lang nadat zijn kunstwerken hun leven begonnen als onderdeel van een museumcollectie; een kwestie die de beheerders van de zogenaamde ‘nieuwe media’ steeds vertrouwder werd, maar daarom niet minder problematisch was.

De publicatie We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik (2019) werpt nieuw licht op Paiks artistiek-filosofische project en brengt een einde aan een lange publicatiestilte van primaire bronnen over zijn werk. Het boek is bijzonder actueel vanwege de reizende tentoonstelling Nam June Paik: The Future is Now, die tot voor kort te zien was in Tate Modern in Londen, straks opent in het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam en later doorreist naar instellingen in Chicago, San Francisco en Singapore.

Hanna B. Hölling, “Archiefactiveringen,” Metropolis M, 44, 1 (2020): 42-45