Came across today a beautiful, fascinating Nam Jun Paik installation at the National Gallery. A bronze Buddha staring at a live feed of itself on TV screens, live feeds of a single candle projected large all over the room. Is this “Buddhist art”? Is it to be meditated upon as a religious space, or contemplated as an art installation? What do you think?
It is, in any case, to me, avant-garde, unusual, thought-provoking, but beautiful, not abstract, and drawing upon historical and cultural associations. Just the way I like my contemporary art.
My advisor taught a course on Buddhist art a year or so ago, including a section on works such as these. I kind of wish now that I had sat in on those lectures or discussions, as he was talking specifically about Nam June Paik and precisely about these kinds of works. Yet, even without that, or any real expertise in Buddhist art, let alone anything beyond the most basic knowledge of Nam June Paik’s work, or Korean Buddhism, or Korean-American art, without any of that, the work still really speaks me, makes me feel something, and makes me think and question and wonder. And that, perhaps, is one of the true measures of a successful work of art.
Nam June Paik’s installation will be up in the Tower Gallery in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, until October 2, 2011.