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Nam June Paik «Wrap around the World»
Nam June Paik, «Wrap around the World», 1988
© Nam June Paik

 Nam June Paik
«Wrap around the World»

One week before the Olympic Games opened in Seoul, television stole a march on the ideal of international fellowship: over ten countries around the globe participated in a broadcast estimated to have attracted 50 million viewers. Unlike the «Good Morning Mr. Orwell» broadcast of 1 January 1984, the material transmitted was mainly produced by the participating broadcasters. Paik this time provided merely the global concept along with several contributions. With less transcontinental switching going on this time, it was possibly less of a direct ‘global' experience; on the other hand, the individual contributions had more time to reveal their intentions (if any). Clearly, entertainment was the dominating trend: the People's Republic of China offers Kung Fu and new pop music, Rio de Janeiro salsa rhythms and dancers, Ireland a rain-drenched motor race, Hamburg a concert for Brahms in a parking lot on the site of the composer's house, and Bonn a concert by punk band ‘Die Toten Hosen' in front of the house where Beethoven was born. A slapstick presenter in the central studio in New York linked up the contributions by demonstrating to an ‘Imperator' from outer space the beauties of the earth and so makes him revise his intention of destroying the world.
The wide range of stars from the pop music and art worlds included David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Merce Cunningham; the «Transpacific Duet» performed by the latter in respectively Tokyo and New York was one of the artistic highpoints whose confrontation of cultures and videographics made for a unique live TV event.
The Olympic Games had brought about a change of heart in regard to Korea's attitude to prodigal son Paik – and Paik too remembered his roots after a 20-year period with almost no contact with his homeland. In Seoul's Museum of Modern Art, Paik mounted as a giant birthday cake his installation titled «The more the better,» which consisted of 1,003 monitors. Its title not only conveys Paik's self-irony but also a measure of scepticism in regard to South Korea's determination to join the premiere league of industrialized nations and the status symbols that mark such aspirations. There is nothing coincidental about the recurrence of the birthplaces of famous composers (Brahms, Beethoven) in the broadcast – Paik began his career in Seoul as a composer. Surprisingly, his only personal appearance shows him wearing a traditional Korean costume. While pressing up against his face, in line with the best days of Fluxus, the birthday cake that served as model for his video installation, his only words, repeated continuously, are: ‘Continue music'. Even if these words apply to the accompanying rhythm supplied by the Korean drummers encircling his installation in Seoul, it would be hard to come up with a better motto for «Wrap around the world.»