June 02, 2006:

[achtung! kunst] *exhibition* : New York, Asia Society: Asia's Digital Dimension - "Projected Realities: Video Art from East Asia"

new york sun, june 1, 2006
Asia's Digital Dimension

It seems entirely appropriate that "Projected Realities: Video Art from
East Asia," a new exhibition at the Asia Society Museum, is dedicated to
the memory of Nam June Paik (1932-2006). After all, the Korean-born Paik
was the first person to become known as a video artist; he began making
video-based pieces in 1965, the year Sony came out with the first video

Paik, however, generally made sculptural video installations, ones that
treated the monitor or television as a formal object, although he also
used video to record performances. For the most part, the 11 works by
six artists in Asia Society's compact and consistently engaging show are
interested in video as content rather than as sculpture. But there are
two exceptions, artists who engage with the form of the video monitor as
well as what is played on it.

Of the four short videos included by Junebum Park, the sole Korean in
the show, two employ monitors laid flat, one on the floor and the other
as a tabletop. Each indulges in a sort of Paikian playfulness. In "I
Parking" (2001-02), a monitor on the ground displays a pair of hands
that seem to move cars in and out of slots in a parking lot, while at
times also helping tiny people - they're seen from on high - scuttle
across the asphalt. Much of the humor derives from the jerky, imperfect
actions of the hands as they try to con trol the events below: There is
no attempt to hide the fact that the piece is simply a conjunction of
two homemade videos, one of a parking lot shot from above, the other of
the hands.

The screen in "Window" (2002), also by Mr. Park,is set into a table on
which a few of the tools seen in the video have been affixed. Like "I
Parking", it exploits the conceit of an unseen - or out-of-frame -
manipulator of reality, as though the world were a video game. The
viewer sees only a pair of tweezers and another tool constructing a
brick wall with a window in it from common modeling materials (plastic
or Styrofoam). The title, of course, refers both to the screen and to
what's shown on it.

The vistas offered in "Flowering Plants of the Four Seasons: Spring and
Autumn" (2004), by Mami Kosemura of Japan, are, in a sense, entirely
natural. A fascinating nod to sculptural installation, the video takes
the form of a traditional Japanese screen painting, one that moves and
changes. In her studio, Ms. Kosemura arranged various flowers and plants
appropriate to the season, then recorded their growth and eventual decay
with a. digital camera. The result, shown on a large horizontal screen,
is a sort of kinetic painting with birdsong. Red flowers open and close,
and die; leaves fall. It constitutes an elegant variation on the
conventions of screen painting.

Both Kuang-Yu Tsui of Taiwan and Wang GongXin of China operate within
the far more recent tradition of performance-based video. Mr. Tsui makes
DVDs. We see his profile in one, the title of which, "Eighteen Copper
Guardians in Shao-Lin Temple and Penetration: The Perceptive" (2002), is
almost as long as the work itself. Objects are thrown at the back of his
head - a wine bottle, a chair, a bucket, a teddy bear - and he tries to
guess what they are: It's a parody of the sort of martial arts training
seen in Kung Fu films.

Apparently, Mr.Wang was one of the first artists to produce a
site-specific video installation in China, a feat he executed in the
mid-1990s. Unfortunately, his piece here, "Kara Oke" (2002), is among
the least interesting in the show. It depicts a mouth with karaoke
singers projected on the teeth. Whenever the tongue obscures the teeth,
while licking its lips, for example, one can't hear the singers. This
goes on for about five minutes - about 4 1/2 minutes too long.

Indeed, throughout its brief history, video art has had duration issues.
Should it be shorter than a television ad,or can it be as long as a
feature film? What can an audience take? Most of the videos included in
"Projected Realities" run for manageable periods; if anything, they tend
to be short.

At 20 minutes, "Fade Into White #4" (2003), a digital animation by the
Japanese artist Kazuhiro Goshima, is the longest. Proceeding at the pace
of molasses, in monochrome, it has a dreamlike narrative that would be
utterly annoying were it not for its extraordinary graphics. Still, the
tone and pacing will strike some as pretentious.

That is not an adjective likely to be applied to Bak Ikeda's chipper
"PiNMeN" series. Also an animator from Japan, Mr. Ikeda has created a
string of episodes - there are 13 here, each running three minutes -
based on a group of extraterrestrials with bulbous heads, button noses,
triangular ET torsos, and stringy limbs. These PiNMeN play hockey or
line up like dominoes; they play parts in affecting little stories. And
they've become so popular in Japan that the episodes are available for
download to cell phones.

Recent years have seen interest in Asian art exploding like ... the
population of China. Asia Society helped inaugurate that fascination
with its 1998 exhibition "Inside Out: New Chinese Art," a broad survey.
Ever since, the institution has been refining our understanding of art
from the East with smaller, more focused shows. "Projected Realities"
happily continues the effort. It would make Nam June Paik proud.




with kind regards,

Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)



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