Acquisition Highlight: Nam June Paik’s TV Fish


Digital & Electronic Art

When the Foundation acquired Nam June Paik’s TV Fish earlier this year, one of our first questions was “Who’s going to feed the fish?” Right away, however, it became clear that the piece is so much more than a high tech fish tank, as Jason Foumberg, the Foundation’s curator, explains. TV Fish is featured in Mouse in the Machine, opening at Art House on June 10.

Nam June Paik was one of the first and best-known innovators of televisual art—that is, art made with or on television monitors. As such, Paik’s experiments with mass-media tools and formats are considered a pillar of contemporary digital art. We think the story of digital art’s development cannot be told without Paik, since he was such a significant source of inspiration for artists who hack and tweak technology.

Paik often placed TVs in startling configurations or contexts, such as TV Fish, in which psychedelic animations are displayed behind and through two fish aquariums, with live fish. In fact, the artwork stimulated the idea for the Foundation’s current exhibit at Art House in Santa Fe, Mouse in the Machine, regarding the intersection of nature, art and technology. TV Fish is a witty commentary on time-based art and performance, melding natural and artificial streams of visual entertainment.

Image: Nam June Paik, TV Fish, 2000 (detail). Aquariums, monitors, single-channel DVD animation and fish. Courtesy of Carl Solway Gallery.