Nam June Paik – Tv Buddha


Nam June Paik was a Korean American artist, a pioneer and some consider him as the founder of video art. He was participating in the Fluxus movement and  credited with inventing the term ‘electronic superhighway’.

Tv- Buddha ( first designed in 1974)

From the website of Media Art Net: “The Buddha perpetually gazes at the TV screen, on which he sees an image of himself recorded by the closed-circuit camera. – past and present gaze upon each other in an encounter between Oriental deity and Western media.”

My fascination lies in the varied layers of  interpretations of this work. Some say that old and new, others see East and West, or real  and illusion facing each other in the two buddhas. The question of originality in the context of mass-media appeals to me the most from the argument triggered by this piece.

The idea of the world wide web was only formulating at the end of the 70s, so it wasn’t an influencing factor in the making of this installation. However the a contemporary spectator can’t really escape internet based thinking and the Tv-Buddha involuntarily becomes re-interpreted.  In relation to the topic of “remote spacing”, what appears to be interesting is the use of “remote-communication technology” (live video) in order to keep the image of the transmitter close. The sender in itself is the receiver, physically there is no need to overcome any distance , so the used tools aren’t entirely fulfil their purpose, therefore their role is more conceptual than functional. The presence of streaming, instead of  overcoming a physical space,  creates a mental space where the spectator’s thoughts appear.