Screens: An Exploration
A live drawing performance inspired by the Nam June Paik show at Tate Modern
On Friday, November 29, we were invited by Tate and MoCDA to stage an interactive live art performance celebrating Nam June Paik.
Preparing for this exciting event, we realized that we have a lot in common with this visionary artist. We share the principles of artistic collaboration, experimentation, technical innovation, the creative use of mass media for artistic expression, and much of his playfulness. Paik was considered a New Dadaist; we can say that we are Digital Dadaists. To paraphrase Serena Tabacchi of MoCDA, in art everything is an evolution and a continuation of those who came before.
17 DADA artists from around the world created a visual conversation inspired by Paik’s prescient take on the presence of electronic media in our lives.
Ophelia Fu, UK • Mar Espi, Spain • Javier Errecarte, Spain • Joe Chiappetta, USA • Daveed, USA • Moxarra González, Mexico • Lissette San Martín, Chile • Otro Captore, Chile • Beatriz Ramos, USA • Boris Toledo, Chile • Ilan Katin, Germany • Massel Quispe, Peru • Boris Z. Simunich, Peru • Vanesa Stati, Argentina • Isa Kost, Italy • Marko Zubak, Croatia • Simon Wairiuko, Kenya • Alex Henry, USA.
Since this is about the relationship between humans and technology, we included DADAGAN, the bot programmed by Alex Reben that makes drawings from our dataset of over 115,000 works. Two of the drawings in the conversation were created by DADAGAN. See if you can spot them.
Each artist had about 30 minutes to create their drawing in front of the audience at the Tate, sharing their screen so that people could watch them draw in real-time. This is more nerve-wracking than it sounds, but The DADA Collective has nerves of steel and a great sense of humor, and they had a blast.
At the same time, aided by DADA artists Ophelia Fu and Ilan Katin, who came from Birmingham and Berlin respectively, the audience at the gallery were encouraged to draw on DADA on three drawing tablets, generously sponsored by Wacom. Throughout the evening, other DADA artists in different parts of the world were on hand to respond to the audience’s drawings.
While all of this was happening, a 14-minute video of classic DADA visual conversations scrolled on a screen behind the stage, filling the room with colorful collaborative art.
As we were dealing with internet connections, live-streaming platforms, videoconferencing, state of the art drawing tablets, and all the electronic accouterments of global interconnectivity, we realized how dependent we are on technology and how blasé we have become about expecting to be beamed instantly and perfectly to every corner of the world.
Already in 1974, Mr. Paik was predicting the future with uncanny accuracy:
This performance underscored an essential part of our ethos, which is to use technology to foster and encourage the creation of art and of community.
Like all of our projects, Screens had a strong aura of spontaneous experimentation. It also shared with Paik the lo-fi vibe and overt nature of what makes technology happen: cables out in the open, and intermittent snafus that make this tech-driven art feel a little coarse around the edges, imperfect, volatile, and exciting. At some point, we had a brief interruption of the videoconferencing, which was there for all to see on the walls of the Tate. We panicked for a second but then we thought that Nam June Paik would be pleased.