Printer Friendly

Recreating a previous piece of art can be a fishy business.

Byline: Laura Davis

THERE exists a black and white photograph of Nam June Paik pinching the very tip of a leaf as he installed the potted plant and flickering screen jungle that made up his work TV Garden back in 1977.

His face is a mask of concentration, his eyes nearly shut as he studies his creation - the juxtaposition of nature and technology that had fascinated him throughout his life.

The Korean-born artist died in 2006, so wasn't available to install a copy of the same piece in Tate Liverpool's current retrospective of his career.

There were no plants or screens from the original TV Garden available to use - so what makes this replica an official Nam June Paik? In fact, it is what is known as an "exhibition copy" - a version of the work produced to exact specifications and rubber-stamped by the work's owner, in this case the NJP Estate managed by his nephew, Ken Hakuta.

Another piece in Tate's show also falls into this category - Video Fish, a series of moving images played on TV screens placed behind a row of fish tanks.

Guppies swim around inside, happily unaware of their new identity as part of a work of art.

John Huffman, Paik's technician, worked closely with the Albert Dock gallery to ensure the replica was built to the artist's directions.

"He gave us a shopping list of all the things we would need, including three people to help him install the work over five days," reveals Tate Liverpool assistant curator Eleanor Clayton, who oversaw sourcing the pieces.

"He specified the type of plants and we basically started Googling to research the best place to get them from."

Being a publicly funded institution, price was an important factor for Tate, but the gallery was also keen to use locally-based suppliers.

They settled on Hartley's Nurseries, in Lydiate, where staff gave advice on how best to look after the plants in terms of feeding and watering.

Daylight lamps are switched on overnight, and on days when Tate is closed, to ensure they survive their stay in the windowless space.

More difficult was sourcing the work's other main component. Paik had insisted on cathode ray television sets, which are no longer made in Europe. They had to be a range of sizes and have a video-on video-off function, or each one would have to be switched on and off manually each day by the art handling team.

For this, Clayton enlisted the help of the Northwest Electronics Recycling Centre, in Old Swan.

"One question it raises for me is that we were trying to find these old televisions, but actually those Paik used in his work did change over the years because he was interested in modern technology," she says.

"If he was around today, would he have wanted TV Garden to have been made with all flat screen plasma televisions?" The instructions for recreating Video Fish were given in French because the piece is owned by the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

With the plinth and monitors provided by exhibition partner Museum Kunst Palast, in Dusseldorf, Clayton had the fish, water and plants to worry about.

The guppies - initially numbering 45 but increased to 55 after a Pompidou official said they could do with a few more - came from Lister Fisheries, based in a former swimming baths in Old Swan.

On advice from Liverpool City Council and the RSPCA, Tate applied for a Performing Vertebrates Licence to prove they were keeping the fish in comfortable conditions.

"With such a complicated list of items we are lucky we managed to do it at all," says Clayton, "but we are doubly lucky that every place we used to source them was within 20 minutes drive from here."

THE Nam June Paik exhibition is at Tate Liverpool and FACT until March 13.


Eleanor Clayton, Tate Liverpool assistant curator, with Nam June Paik's Video Fish; inset, TV Garden
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 27, 2011
Previous Article:They've bin great; emails & letters.
Next Article:the list.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters