On that beach the sky and the ocean were perfectly flat and blue. Then we went back to the shack and the parrot. The parrot was blue, too, but things were different. You pulled its beak and wings with chains. Finally, to punish me, you shot it in the head. Small red. We waited a day, then had its body stuffed and sold it.
Nam June Paik (American, born Korea, 1932–2006)
TV Buddha, 1989
Closed-circuit video installation and bronze
Fractional and promised gift of Pamela and Richard Kramlich to the New Art Trust
In the event of picture scroll, visitors may kick the television. One kick per person.
Andy Warhol is not dead. Instead, he is somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, working on a set of screen tests featuring a new superstar: Dick Cheney. We watch while the grainy gray blood moves slowly, very slowly, through Cheney’s body. It takes hours. We just sit there and wait for it to end.
My orientation at the museum didn’t take very long because they didn’t show me around the galleries, just the office annex with no art in it. I’m on the second floor, marketing and communications; above us are the money people. On top of them is another floor where a certain odor strikes you as soon as the elevator doors open. This is where they keep Don Fisher’s very personal collection, the one nobody knows quite what to do with, because it consists of goats, ducks, and chickens. Until somebody figures out what they’re really worth, they live here, nibbling distractedly on the beige carpet. It doesn’t taste like much, but at least there are windows, so the light seeps across the alley and if you thought about it you might remember the grass and water from the park around the corner. If you had time to think about it.
A few weeks after I turned in my program notes for the film festival, the program coordinator called me:
“The notes are fine, except I wanted to let you know, we need to add a sentence to the beginning of one of them.”
“What does it say?”
“‘I LOVE DOCUMENTARIES!!'”
“Um, OK, but maybe you could take my name off the note then.”
“But we’re trying to add a more personal flavor.”
Everyone’s talking about this new TV show. It’s shot through an upstairs window, maybe in London, maybe not. There’s a view of a street tree and a lamppost and a sidewalk where every once in a while someone walks by. In the pilot, we witnessed a blonde woman in a pink shirt and a white skirt, and, about fifteen minutes later, a little boy, both traveling from right to left. The dramatic peak so far came in episode thirteen, when a man riding a bicycle paused briefly next to a fire hydrant on the corner. Was that hydrant always there? Who knows what other adventures await as the mystery continues to unfold? In the meantime, the entire first season will soon be available on DVD for $17.95.
“Hi, I’m Robert Osborne,” says our host Robert Osborne, emerging from the warm mahogany recesses of his Craftsman-style living room. He approaches the camera, smiling enigmatically, then drifts into a niche behind the leather sofa. He reemerges into an Orientalist fantasy of floor cushions, hookahs, and maroon draperies. Still approaching the camera, still smiling, he glides through a lofty hall of white plaster columns, sweeping staircases, and silvery fixtures. He doesn’t pick up the white telephone; he keeps on walking through room after room. In a flophouse with stained carpet and peeling wallpaper, he pauses next to a battered La-Z-Boy. He is still smiling, still looking at us. We can’t see his feet. Will he sit down? Will he ever sit down?