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Exhibition unknown | Participation TV
«Exhibition unknown», 1963
Participation TV | Photography | Photograph: Peter Brötzmann
With the ‘prepared’ or sometimes destroyed piano, John Cage, Paik and the Fluxus artists launched an assault on the instrument of the European musical tradition and the symbol of the affluent middle-class home. Paik now transferred this treatment to the TV set, which in the 1960s replaced the piano as the most expensive item of furniture in the home. Paik’s modifications suggest various possible attitudes of viewer to TV picture, ranging from object of meditation ('Zen for TV') to object of interaction ('Participation TV'). His notion of making viewers active participants rather than passive consumers foreshadowed the present-day discussions about interaction and multimedia as the mass media of the 21st century.

 Exhibition unknown

Paik’s first major exhibition was held from 11 to 20 March 1963 in a gallery run by architect Rolf Jährling in his private residence. The title Paik chose indicates his transition from music to the electronic image. Four ‘prepared’ pianos, mechanical sound objects, several record and tape installations, twelve modified TV sets, and the head of a freshly slaughtered ox above the entrance awaited visitors. The show ran for ten days and opened for two hours daily between 7.30 and 9.30pm. Newspaper reports indicate that visitors to the show, which was distributed over the entire house (and did not stop at the private quarters of the Jährling family), experienced the show and its setting as a ‘total event’, many guests taking no more than a perfunctory glance at the room with TV sets. Today, this room is seen as the starting point of the video art that later developed, although Paik, not yet having access to video equipment, was still modifying inexpensive second-hand TV sets to distort the TV programmes as they were being broadcast. Germany had only one TV station up to 1963, and it broadcast for no more than a few hours each evening – possibly explaining the late opening-time of Paik's show. Unlike the Fluxus actions which took place concurrently, Paik’s project did not attract TV coverage.