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Multimedia installation, dimensions variable, 2012

I laughed out loud the first time I saw Nam June Paik's "TV Buddha," because it struck me as a nearly perfect gesture. It can be read in a lot of interesting ways, but my favourites all relate to subjectivity. Effectively, we have the authentic subject experiencing himself through external representation and social/technological mediation. However, this mediation collapses without something concretely external: since the closed circuit camera also carries suggestions of surveillance, the buddha-tv-camera trio transposes a little bit too neatly to id-ego-superego, which cuts the Other out of the picture entirely.

This could be fine for its time, but this is a world where Annie Clark can sing, "if I can't show it, if you can't see me, what's the point of doing anything?" and so some updating was in order.

In this installation, Buddha and Ganesha* sit before their iPhones, seeing each other over FaceTime. In the tiny preview window, Paik's piece is preserved verbatim and the two see themselves as their camera does, but they mainly see themselves seeing each other. All of the same psychological mechanics are in place, although they've expanded their scope: the piece is no longer about pure subjectivity; intersubjectivity is now central, and it's clear that they were never properly separable in the first place.

 

* Ganesha's role as remover of obstacles makes him extra appropriate for this piece

Installation shots from OCAD University, 2012, by the late Andrew Capra.