"Our life is half natural and half technological. Half-and-half is good. You cannot deny that high-tech is progress. We need it for jobs. Yet if you make only high-tech, you make war. So we must have a strong human element to keep modesty and natural life." - Paik Nam June
The nimble philosophy of Alexander the Great (Lot 1502) 'there is nothing impossible to him who will try' is evident in Paik Nam June's monumental mixed-media sculpture, with the integrity of sculptural construction and the artist's poignantly fragmented technological portrait of the visionary who established the largest empire in ancient history. The historical allusions invoke Alexander's strong kingdom and powerful expansionism, one of the first historic figures to embrace and promote "globalization" through his simultaneously adaptability to other cultures and efforts to spread Greek civilization into the East. Paik's consciousness of history and the biography of the legendary figure structures the enigmatic paradox of modern aesthetic practices with ancient history. Paik reveals a dominant cultural and historical ideology, the endless pursuit of new environments and innovation producing constant political and social transformation. As such, Paik rehearses the innate human desire for adventure and challenge, as well as the thrills that they inspire.
Alexander the Great, as well as The Rehabilitation of Genghis Khan (featured in the Evening Sale- Lot 1038) were both included as part of Paik's contribution to the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, where Paik was also awarded the coveted Golden Lion award for best Artist Pavilion. Assuming the theme of "Artist as Nomad", Paik produced several "portraits" of historical figures whose lives embodied his own values of fearless adventure and innovation, generous and expansive intellectualism, and pragmatic cultural receptivity and exchange. Displaying the extrinsic meaning and narratives of found objects, Paik assembles a wooden elephant on a wheel massed with a statuette of Alexander in form of television shell, broadcasting neon symbols, signaling his strength as a ruler; the crown of the figure holds fluorescent tubing curved in a Chinese calligraphy of 'King', breathing with its pulsating contour of a red rabbit, indicative of rebirth and fertility. The temperature and brilliance exuded through the neon graphics acts as a union of idea and expression as electricity, the innovation behind all "new media" in the modern era, one that commands all streams of transmission and communication. A key component that cannot be ignored in its immense impact on new medium, culture, art and mankind, electricity takes a theoretical role in generating universal reconciliation, its revolutionary potency, adeptly but humorously exploited by Paik to revive the heated force, revolutionary influence and authority of Alexander the Great on changing and evolving the reality of his empire- his power paralleled to digital technology that changes the reality of our everyday life. As Paik continues to strategically facilitate the environment and legacy through his found sculpture of an elephant, rugged in exteriors, coarsely engraved with brave battle scars. Responsive to its symbolic and historic associations with strength, wisdom and dignity, and as scared animals of the East, Paik's acute but simple employment of an elephant is a metaphorical narration of Alexander's successful invasion of India and the Persian Empire. Specifically referencing the Battle of Guagamela and Hydaspes River, Alexander's swift and stealth mobilization of war elephants and his immediate military consumption of their force to guard to his palace at Babylon, indeed verifies his modern liberalism to cross boundaries for a fruitful economical, cultural and political pluralism.
Believing that 'We have a big advantage called the 'aesthetics of Bibim-bap (traditional Korean dish of mixed meal). We also have the humor which is rich and which has the audacity of tolerance', Paik implements radical and arbitrary recipes of art creations that evoke Marcel Duchamp's notion of the "readymade"; hence, deconstructing the original function of a television by teasingly eliminating the visual broadcast of successive images and instead, inserting solitary image to bring new inspiration and social context to the object, together with a title that amplifies its new meaning, freshly redefined by Paik is now, distant from its original purpose.
Paik's constant play in redefining, inventing, adapting, revisiting has been fruitfully channeled in mutually critical and productive relationship, determining Paik's originality as one of the most influential and international artists of the 20th Century. His expansive capacity heavily owed to the cultural, artistic and material diversity of his own background, Paik defined a new form of creative expression that paved ways for many young artists today and liberated conventional boundaries between mediums in art by challenging audiences and opening art to new possibilities, to fearlessly break away from conventional art practice and to artistically advance together with the changing media environment. A principle uttered in his historical paradigm of Alexander with his comprehension of television as a new form of cultural agent and as a commodity of a capitalist economy, it is modeled by Paik's liberal pluralism- a shared pioneering philosophy with his cultural hero, Alexander the Great.