Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathMassMedia
Was macht unsere heutigen Wohnungen eigentlich so anders, so anziehend? (Hamilton, Richard), 1956Hommage à John Cage; Musik für Tonbänder und Klavier (Paik, Nam June), 1959

icon: previous page

It should be pointed out that these early steps in media art were taken on a much more modest basis than any of the utopian or political demands made in the first half of the century: artists do not work with television as a broadcasting station and institution, but just with the terminal device, the television set. Just as in Richard Hamilton's 1956 collage «Just what is it, that makes today' s home so different, so appealing,» television is only one of many new features enriching the modern home. So artists are just ‹exemplary viewers,› working with the tube as a symbol of the mass medium as a whole, using the normal television schedule rather than making programs themselves. So here it is no longer a matter of making television into an art instrument; its institutional status as a media system remains unassailable, artists can only change it as a model at the point of reception. The following examples are modelled on Cage's[12] receptive-analytical approach and not Fontana's[13] emphatic/utopian one. As in 1951–1952, there is astonishing synchronicity in 1962–1964 as well, even though the artists usually come to work with television independently of each other, and via various routes. All


the following examples show that the artists were working with the electronic TV image before the industry launched the first affordable video equipment on the market from the mid-1960s. So art is not waiting for media technology to progress, but relies on its own resources to come to terms with the dominant mass medium of the day.

From Cage to Paik and from music to interactive art

Nam June Paik is generally seen as the father of video art today. His path leads from studying classical music in Korea and Japan via his discovery of Arnold Schoenberg to John Cage and an interest in electronic music, and finally to work with electronic images. His first major presentation was called «Hommage à John Cage—Musik für Tonbänder und Klavier»[14] and was made in 1959 in Jean Pierre Wilhelm's Galerie 22 in Düsseldorf, where Cage had performed the year before. Cage and Paik are linked by their mutual interest in random creative processes, using new techniques, including electronics, to question the role of human intention and the ideal of the artistic ‹idea.›[15]

icon: next page