Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman

Interview with Charlotte Moorman about their collaboration, Opera Sextronique, 1967

T.V. Bra, 1975

Article about Charlotte Moorman

Charlotte Moorman playing the TV cello—1984.

Similarly in the realm of conceptual art, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman are stakes in the history of new media and performance art. Both were heavily influenced in their study years in Germany by the Neo-Dada movement, which explored the absurdity and abstraction of sound and music in form of different technologies. In 1964, TV Cello, Paik and Moorman built a “cello” out of stacked televisions and as Moorman “bowed” the cello strings the television would show different images of her playing the real cello. In this performance, Moorman is interacting with the traditions of classic musical instruments but with a technological twist. The 1984 recreation gives a comical appeal to this performance piece as she looks like she is playing the notes of a real cello but the sounds come out in mushy electronic cries and are certainly not pleasing.

Throughout the years, Moorman played her cello topless (various stages of nudity depending on the arias) in Opera Sextronique (1967) as well as in a bra made out of small television screens (TV Bra for Living Sculpture, 1969). Moorman served as a medium for the message of the performance to be told, therefore her personal, womanly body was used as a means for something else—this provocative and invasive use in art astounded viewers. Therefore, the performance was banned and Moorman was arrested. In an article describing Moorman’s performance history with Paik it is stated “[Moorman’s] mode of chamber spectacle individualized the role of performer, and broadened the role of composer” (Alan Moore). In a video interview with Moorman, she describes the nude performance as she is dubbed as the “topless cellist who has been convicted” and how that has negatively affected her performance later on in life. Throughout the video, Moorman explains the reasons why their performance was so offending to people in New York (in Germany it was accepted). She says that people could not get over the classical background mixed with the nudity—the proper mixed with the vulgar, which is what Paik and Moorman were striving to get at with Opera Sextronique. Finally, Moorman explains how this trial changed the laws of New York in getting rid of censorship and she comments on how she cares “about the art end of it” but worries that nowadays that the limits of using this freedom are being pushed with increasing amounts with the pornography business. Moorman states how she is okay with nudity in public and in art venues as long as it does not hurt women.

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