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  • Jan 27, 2022

Nam June Paik Video Tower Lives Again

Installation view of NAM JUNE PAIK’s 18.5-meter-tall television tower The More, The Better (1988) at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Gwacheon. Courtesy MMCA

A giant 18.5-meter-tall tower of 1,003 stacked televisions flickered back to life in the main atrium of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in Gwacheon, South Korea. MMCA restorers began a six-month test run of the massive monument of screens by video-art pioneer Nam June Paik, aptly titled The More, The Better (1988), on January 17, initially running the artwork for two hours each day through January 28.

The largest Nam June Paik video installation in the world, The More, The Better has been undergoing a thorough restoration after it was shut down completely in 2018. The installation had been beleaguered by technical problems since at least 2003, and was frequently turned off for maintenance.

The restoration project required the repair of 735 vintage monitors and the replacement of 268 small 15- and 25-centimeter cathode-tube monitors at the top of the spiraling column with LCD displays. MMCA conservators worked closely with colleagues at museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which houses Paik’s Fin de Siècle II (1989), a video tower of 207 cathode-ray monitors that underwent an eight-year renovation.

At a symposium organized by the MMCA last November, technician Lee Jung-sung, who worked with Paik on the video tower, noted that while many might be unhappy about the replacement of original monitors with LCD screens, there is no rule book for the conservation of such new-media works, as the technology was limited when the tower was first constructed.

On the 90th anniversary of Paik’s birth, MMCA plans an archival exhibition about The More, The Better for June, ahead of a group exhibition in November, titled “Nam June Paik Effect.” The latter will feature artists influenced by the South Korea-born artist, whose experiments with new-media technologies, from video art and music to fax art and early internet art, intersected with the avant-garde music and art scenes in Europe and the United States.

After January 28, operating hours of The More, The Better will be gradually extended as testing continues.