Nam June Paik: Global Visionary

August 5, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

TV Garden by Nam June Paik

Installing TV Garden by Nam June Paik, 1974/2000, single channel video installation with color television monitors and live plants; color, sound, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. (Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

Smithsonian Gardens recently had the opportunity to make a unique contribution to an exhibit currently on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Our staff often provide plants and flower arrangements to beautify the space of a gallery to complement the art on display, but rarely are we asked to provide plants to become an actual work of art. Art in the garden is a familiar trope, but in this case, the garden is the art.

This was exactly the case when we were approached to provide living plants for the exhibit Nam June Paik: Global Visionary. Nam June Paik was a Korean American artist born July 20, 1932 in Seoul, Korea and died January 29, 2006. He worked in a variety of media, but is often called the “father of video art” as he was one of the first artists to explore the medium of video and television in art.

TV Garden Nam June Paik

TV Garden by Nam June Paik, 1974/2000, single channel video installation with color television monitors and live plants; color, sound, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. (Photo by Amy Vaughters, Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

In the center of the exhibition is Paik’s 1974/2000 installation TV Garden, comprised of televisions screening his 1973 video masterpiece “Global Groove” peeking out from a jumble of live tropical plants. Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouses’ Interior Plant Section helped install the plants and has maintained them throughout the duration of the exhibit. There are over three hundred tropical plants in the installation, and all are varieties specified by the exhibit’s curators to remain true to Paik’s original vision. Aglaonema commutatum ‘Maria’, Dracaena warneckii, Scindapsus aureus (Jade pothos), and Ravenea rivularis (Majesty palm) were acquired in a variety of sizes for TV Garden.

From a horticulturist’s perspective, it is a challenge to maintain these plants due to the sheer quantity and the close proximity of the televisions, wires, and cables spread throughout the installation. Every week it takes approximately three hours of watering and grooming to keep the plants looking fresh and healthy.

Nam June Paik: Global Visionary is open through August 11, 2013. Hurry over to see it; it closes on Sunday!

For more information, check out these reviews of the exhibit by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

-Joel Lemp, Horticulturist

Entry filed under: Horticulture. Tags: , , , , .

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