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.
And now a message from our sponsors: The troop transport ramp descends and uncountable masses of soldiers spill out and into the lens like clowns from a clown car, their footsteps creating surround-sound thunder. They keep coming while the logo fades in . . .
LITTLE WORLD WAR III
They keep coming. I’m not sure the show is ever going to come back on.
The museum where I work is mounting an exhibition on the subject of Nature, an opportunity for the gift shop to sell greeting cards of etched animals with googly eyes glued on. In the upstairs gallery the preparators are hanging paintings of ants. I have seen them all before, and had enough. I will submit my resignation soon, as soon as I get down the stairs, but my scarf is tangled in the Baroque banister and as I fall it enfolds me in a silk cocoon. At the bottom a gilt-edged mirror reflects the picture window looking out on the park. Something very large is emerging from the hedges, coming darkly into focus. People are running.
I wrote a review of a recently rediscovered Preston Sturges film in which Joan Fontaine and Ray Milland were being held in a dungeon by a group of small-town right-wing Christians. It turned out that they had been mistaken for their identical twins, who arrived at the last moment to spring them from the dungeon, and everyone rode off together happily bouncing on a flying bed. The review got picked up by the Ann Arbor Gazette; they were kind enough to send me a clip, but instead of using an envelope they folded the newsprint itself into a tight little package and covered it with tape so all I could see was the dateline “ANN FRANCISCO–.” I wonder what I said about the movie.
I was invited to create an exhibition. In the old train car that served as a gallery, I found a garbage can and put my long-ago-abandoned dissertation in it. I left the door open and went outside to watch a rabbit that was browsing around the base of a tree. It was a really weird-looking rabbit. I said I’d write the artist’s statement later.
In her gallery talk the curator invited us to ponder this painting entitled, she said, “Schenectady.”
It was the end of a long day of gallery tours, and everybody from my office was exhausted. We were ushered into a big white enclosure with pale line drawings covering the walls. They looked a little like engineering diagrams, but from the middle of the room, where we were sitting on avant-garde contoured plastic chairs, it was hard to tell. I hoped the curator’s presentation would be brief, but she kept interrupting herself to talk on her cell phone, and then she decided to demonstrate her recently acquired fiber arts skills by knitting a giant pink fuzzy flower. “Look! I’m knitting a flower! Isn’t it cute?!” she exclaimed. I decided I would never knit anything again. Then the curator introduced the performance-art portion of the program: “As you’ll see, it’s very political.” A group of Nazis burst into the room with their German shepherds and submachine guns and shot us all, one by one.