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.
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.”
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.