Nam June Paik, who was born in Korea, studied in Japan and Germany, and spent his last years in America, was a global citizen. He left works crossing over eastern and western worldviews. Ulsan Art Museum presented Nam June Paik’s Sistine Chapel in celebration of his 90th birth anniversary. If Sistine Chapel is a piece displaying a ‘sky’ holding the western view of art, the video-installation piece Turtle, consisting of 166 TV monitors, is a work expressing an eastern worldview metaphorically referring to ‘land,’ which maintains and supports the world. As the second part of the Nam June Paik‘s 90th Anniversary Exhibition, we seek to demonstrate how cutting-edge art can be connected as an ‘anthropology’ to a worldview formed through a long history, through Turtle, a manifestation of ‘land.’
This piece, in which 166 TV monitors are installed in the shape of a turtle, shows Paik’s patented aesthetic of combining nature with technology, and the eastern spirit with Western civilization. Particularly, Turtle, presented in the year commemorating Nam June Paik’s 90th birth anniversary, is a piece signifying to the vitality of art, which remains in the world and ‘lives on’ even after the artist’s passing. If the West’s historic cultural heritage of the Sistine Chapel was reborn as Nam June Paik’s Sistine Chapel (1993), the eastern historic cultural heritage of the Petroglyphs Bangudae Terrace were reborn as Nam June Paik’s Turtle (1993).
Considered a sacred animal in the East, the turtle is deeply related to Ulsan. The oldest extant turtle iconography in Korea can be found at the Petroglyphs of Bangudae Terrace in Daegok-ri, Ulju. The Petroglyphs are also called ‘Bangudae Petroglyphs’, because they are located nearby the Bangudae terrace, naming after its shape resembling a turtle lying its face down. This is why Turtle has special meaning as part of the collection of Ulsan Art Museum, which is intended to be a museum specializing in media art.