Slouching on a sofa watching television may not seem like such a high cultural pursuit, but it all depends on what's on the tube. White sofas and televisions at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum invite visitors to be couch potatoes and tune in to classic video art from the prestigious collection of the Pompidou Center in Paris (titled New Media Collection, 1965-2005－Centre Pompidou).
Thirty-three of the Pompidou Center's historically important video artworks are on view until July 23.
Thematically grouped, the videos create a provocative and fascinating dialogue.
In the mid-20th century as television began infiltrating homes and replacing traditional media, artists experimented with the new medium to create alternative ways of perceiving the boob tube and criticize the consumerist allure and power it held.
Many of the pioneering works seem fresh and contemporary even though television technology has advanced considerably.
Nam Jun Paik, a pioneer of video art, is well represented in this exhibition with several key works. Paik's argument that TV could be used for profound pursuits and not only to sell commercial goods or ideology to unwitting spectators, still rings true.
Paik's poetic Moon is the Oldest TV utilizes television monitors like light-boxes. Each TV set, placed on a pedestal, displays one phase of the moon that is actually produced by a magnet on the cathode ray tube, which alters and disrupts the signal. Pushing the limits of the medium, the work is simple, yet complex and seemingly eternal.
Early on, artists saw video's potential for interactivity and incorporated the audience into the work via close circuit cameras. Dan Graham's Present Continuous Past is an installation where your image is projected after a few seconds delay; thus your past self is occupying the same space as your present self.
Artists also explored video's spatial dimensions to create installations. In his Going Around the Corner Piece (1970), Bruce Nauman forces viewers to move their bodies, rather than being merely seated spectators, in order to change their visible perceptions.
Nauman's Stamping in the Studio (1968), in which he banally walks around repetitively stomping on the floor is shown next to Samuel Beckett's non-verbal play Quad I, in which four colorful, shrouded figures continuously shuffle across the staged area. In this humorous juxtaposition, the meaningless pacing symbolizes the futility of human existence.
Cinema has a profound effect on contem-porary art with artists deconstructing scenes, film scores, characters and the medium's implied symbolic meanings. Jean-Luc Godard's film Passion is shown in this context.
Film and video are also great media for capturing memories as they lend themselves to simultaneously showing past and present images. In Pierre Huyghe's The Third Memory, fact and fiction merge as the protagonist reenacts his famous bank robbery, but his memory of actual events is clouded by Sidney Lumet's film Dog Day Afternoon.
New technology creates new modes of artist expression. So the VHS tapes of the 1970s, watched on a television set, are now replaced by theatrical, multi-screen projections that create a stereo experience of light, sound and image. Stan Douglas' Hors-Champs and Isaac Julien's Baltimore provide a glimpse into the future possibilities of new media art with their innovative forms of editing and storytelling.