June 2015

                                                           Buddha Duchamp Beuys 1989

Buddha Duchamp Beuys 1989 is one of the variations of Nam June Paik’s iconic installation TV Buddha.  The former was shown in a Paik retrospective at the Kunst Palast Museum in Dusseldorf in 2010.  Paik created TV Buddha in 1974 at the end of the first generation of television culture.  It featured a statue of the contemplative Buddha sitting before a small television behind which was a closed circuit camera recording his image.

TVBuddha - 1974

                                                                          TV Buddha – 1974

Paik, in one of his variations on this theme, took the place of Buddha, sitting before the television and camera.  I thought of this in relation to television in culture, and it struck me that hours of passive reception of information and frequently violent entertainment makes TV Buddhas of many people, but in a way that is harmful to our well-being.  The passive reception of information cannot achieve any transcendence, and serves to separate us from one another.  This is a point Allan Watts made in his talk, “What is Wrong with Our Culture.”

TV Buddha Variation

You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room, everybody isolated, watching this thing; and, thus, in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.



Michael Wolf – From “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Michael Wolf – From “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Google Street View is a frequently updated archive of location images. Contemporary artists have begun to incorporate those images into their work, resulting in gallery and museum exhibitions and sales of prints.  This practice has also generated controversy as to whether the images actually belong to the individuals using them.  It is a question of the authenticity of the image – a debate that has raged in various forms since the early history of the medium.

From Vimeo:

In 2011, German photographer Michael Wolf was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Contemporary Issues category of the World Press Photo Awards. Wolf’s award became highly controversial among other photojournalists, since the winning work was deliberately appropriated from images found via Google Street View, which Wolf then cropped and re-photographed on his computer monitor.

Wolf argues that the very act of appropriating specific sections of images within a vast data stream and photographing them make the images uniquely his.  His intelligence, editorial skill, and intuition bring attention to facets of the world that would otherwise go unnoticed and remain lost in the Google Street View image archive.

Another photographer using Google Street view is Doug Rickard. His recent appropriated images show areas of the United States where “unemployment is high and educational opportunities are few.”  Taking a virtual tour of those areas, Rickard isolated and digitally captured particular scenes that commented on “poverty and racial inequality.” The resulting series of images was published in a book entitled A New American Picture and exhibited in New Photography 2011 at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Doug Rickard from “Surveying the Terrain”

Doug Rickard from “Surveying the Terrain”

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