Watering a Garden with Electronics

I spent quite a bit of time enjoying TV Garden, although it was not the original version. I believe this one was created in 2000, and honestly, I am unsure if Paik was directly involved with the installation process itself. This particular version is at the Nam June Paik Art Center, located about an hour south of Seoul in a small city called Yongin. It is a nice facility, and this installation alone makes a visit worthwhile.

Paik has nearly 40 TV monitors (it was difficult to count, but I think I got to 38) of various sizes scattered, or rather, planted, throughout a real live green garden. At first, I thought that the plants were fake, but they aren’t. They are 100% real. It’s a unique sight to see televisions peeking out through the bushes, knowingly sharing the same soil as plants – almost as if both (plant and TV) need the soil to survive. It’s a rather poetic installation, and probably one of my personal favorites.

Each TV screen is playing a 30min or so loop of Paik’s video piece Global Groove (1973). However, not all of the screens match, meaning that the loop is playing the video at different parts on different monitors. It creates a bit of dissonance within the piece. The installation highlights the notion of the peaceful coexistence of technology with nature, but also technology with technology. Again, I do find this piece to be incredibly poetic in nature (pun intended)– both visually and philosophically.

I think that Paik’s recycling the components of a previous work is telling. Once more, bringing forth a question of technology and the different elements used to make up the whole. Global Groove is a video art piece, but it needs monitors for an audience to enjoy it. It also needs speakers, since so much information is also conveyed via a musical soundtrack. If the TV monitors were  flickering non-sense, or not turned on at all, TV Garden would be rather dull art installation.

In fact, some monitors were not on (most likely because they the tubes had burned out), and others were turned sideways or placed completely upside down. I wondered about the varied monitor placement. Did Paik envision the monitors in various positions, so much so that you’d have to kink your neck to view the video? Most likely he did. He was a jokester in many ways, as he never thought that life should be taken so seriously, yet he still managed to make some serious strides in advancing communication in the realm of art and new media.

Ultimately, TV Garden allows the viewer a unique opportunity to interact with a large number of TV set, almost like a sports bar, but instead of mindless images being thrown your way, you find yourself pondering, once more, about the relationship between man, machine and nature.

When I come to think of it, how do they water the plants to keep them alive without killing the TV’s? Organic life needs water and some TLC, but man made life certainly does not…