Sunday, 19 December 2010

Nam June Paik @ Tate Liverpool & FACT

Something magical is happening in Liverpool... and I don’t mean the snow or the Christmas spirit.

Split across the Tate Liverpool and FACT, Nam June Paik is receiving a very well deserved retrospective. Even though he may not be universally well know, he’s a seminal artists, and there is more than enough artistic ammunition to prove this as gospel truth.

Nam June Paik seemed to consistently produce provocative, assessable artwork without having to belabour a theoretical or political point. It is refreshing and enjoyable, and most importantly not at all worthy or good for you! This is delicious visual and intellectual bubble-gum, sustenance without nasty roughage.

In the Tate Liverpool, you find yourself stumbling from delight to delight. In TV Garden, 1974, a room bristles with tropical plants and flickering tv sets and feels like something out of the Terry Gilliam film Brazil. One Candle, 1988 - a video camera focused on a candle, with the image broken down into it’s constituent colours and projected onto the walls - is as beautiful as an abstract painting and lead you to ponder the very nature of light. Also... Robots!

This is not to mention Laser Cone, 2001, over at FACT. If you are lucky you’ll be able to enjoy this experience without aged hippies yelping that how it’s just like acid... but even with that annoying accompanying chorus it is sheer magic.You'll have trouble tearing yourself away from Laser Cone, and not just because being battered and bruised from falling over on the ice makes it hard to get up.

It shouldn’t be startling, but to find an artist who so consistently worked with such dazzlingly originality, ingenuity and integrity with mass technology is just that. It has driven home to me (again) how utterly jaded I am about technology and art; why did I even need to remark on the synergetic skill with which Rafael Lozano-Hemmer wove the two together? Because most artists simply have not been as good as this pioneer!

Nam June Paik has reminded us that art can be magical.

Nam June Paik in collaboration with Norman Ballard
Laser Cone, 2001/2010
© Estate of Nam June Paik and Norman Ballard
Photographed by Stefan Arendt, LVR / Medienzentrum Düsseldorf

Goodbye Don Van Vliet

If the name of this blog isn’t enough of a give away, the fact that I dedicated my MA dissertation to Don Van Vliet might indicate to you that I am a little bit of a Captain Beefheart fan girl.

With the recent death of Don Van Vliet (1941 to Friday 17 December 2010) I’m guessing a great number of copies of Trout Mask Replica are being dusted off. Now, don’t get me wrong, Trout Mask Replica is an alright album, just as his best known album it is rather overrated and frequently, even to my prog loving ears, unpalatable.

What’s probably not being said is that of this undoubted pioneer of mad, experimental rock music is that he was also an uncanny master of love songs.

Turn to songs like the adorable My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains (The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot), the bitter sweet Too Much Time (again The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot, sadly not on Spotify) and the glorious rolling broken hearted ballad Love Lies (Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)) and tell me I’m wrong. 

A while ago, I put together a Beefheart Love Song playlist on Spotify, sadly missing some real gems that are not available.

... and, it might not be a love song, but little can beat the swirling, foot tapping magic that is Yellow Brick Road for sheer musical manifestation of joy.