In the Ask a Collector section collectors regularly compare art with a holiday, a holiday in your head so to speak. A statement that I can agree with. Like a holiday, art has a leisurely pace and can give one peace and inspire. But to experience and truly understand cultural differences, you will have to go away from home for longer a period than two or three weeks in the summer.
Those who had the chance to spend a longer period of time in Germany, for example, will slowly discover that the country does not regard itself as a Western European country, but a Central European one instead, and that the attitude towards technological progress has a different point of departure from ours. While we are now concerned about the omnipotence of the tech giants, Datenschutz (data protection) was already an issue preoccupying our eastern neighbors long before Big Brother first appeared on television.
I was reminded of art’s capacity to convey these deeper cultural differences and value patterns, when I visited the Nam Jun Paik retrospective at the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum between the first and second lockdown. Paik was the first artist to analyze the role of mass media and early forms of globalization, making full use of the opportunities offered by new technology.
For example, in the late 1960s, Paik already worked with closed-circuit cameras to illustrate the relationship between viewer and what is viewed and he created a cheerful family of robots, each generation built from a newer medium.
While in the West technological progress is accompanied by a discourse on privacy and medical-ethical implications, Paik's technology does not pose a threat to mankind. This is evident from the work TV Garden (1974-1977), a harmonious ensemble made up of a bed of ferns and televisions. Paik saw no contradiction between nature and technology. A huge cultural difference and one that unveils our own underlying assumptions of technological progress.
This collection focuses on 5 artists who follow in Nam Jun Paik's footsteps and reflect on new media and technology.