Activities Art

5 reasons to visit Nam June Paik exhibition at the Tate Modern with Kids

Tate Modern’s retrospective of Nam June Paik, the Korean-born American visionary artist, focuses on communication, imagination and is a perfect excuse to watch telly for the sake of art.

A visit to the Tate Modern is always a goodie – with or without our little Londoner in tow. But given how popular our 5 reasons to see Gormley with Kids was – we figured we would do the same for the Nam June Paik exhibition at Tate Modern.

1. The digital Sistine Chapel. 

Nam June Paik used 40 projectors to create a huge kaleidoscopic collage for the 1993 Venice Biennale and because it is so complicated it has never been tried since – until now! Expect theatrical footage from Bowie and performers like Janis Joplin accompanied by a collage soundtrack. Curator Valentina Ravaglia said “It’s an immersive landscape of projections that surrounds you from the floor to nearly all of the ceiling. It is overwhelming.” The toddler loved this part of the exhibition the most and danced alongside the projected images, ran around the space and even tried to climb the scaffolding. 

2. Loads of screens with images (and music)

I usually try to limit screen time for my little human but this exhibition is a good excuse to gaze at loads of screens, both old and new. It’s hypnotic. There is a TV garden where you can observe vintage TV sets immersed in green foliage, a massive wall with screens of various sizes, sculptures made from TVs and technology that used to take pride of place in my grandfather’s living room. 

Nam June Paik foresaw the importance of mass media and multimedia technology, coining the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’ to predict the future of interactive communication in an internet age. He predicted that we would all have our own channels in the future. Looks like his predictions came true (hello Youtube and Instagram). If this young Londoner was older, this exhibition would be a great opportunity to discuss some subjects around the information overload in the digital age and how quickly we change and adapt in the way we consume and share it with our peers today.

3. There’s robotic sculptures made out of TVs

Robots made out of TVs. Transformers style sculptures made out of tellies of various age, shape and size. Interesting and somewhat disturbing; although we can’t touch these (and the toddler was pretty disappointed!) they are pretty cool to look at.

4. Noise

A room in the exhibition is devoted to Paik’s pivotal first solo exhibition, Exposition of Music – Electronic Television. Several of the original artworks are brought together, including improved and improvised pianos and musical instruments. We were stopped a few times in our tracks to listen to the changing tempo and pitch of the ‘music’. 

5. Shadow Play

There are flickering candles, empty spaces which you can fill with your own shadow stories and more. Yup – lots of opportunities to play together and engage with little people and their shadows. Get creative and make your own narrative or imagine Paik’s. There is a TV Buddha in the first room you enter and the One Candle is a flickering multi coloured flame projection. We love flames in this household, anything that glows really; this toddler must have been a moth in a previous life because he finds them mesmerising. And talking of previous existences, pieces in the exhibition are perfect examples of how Paik was influenced by Zen, Taoism and Buddhist philosophies.

Nam June Paik opens at Tate Modern on 17 October 2019 and is on until 7 Feb 2020. Tickets are £13 for an adult. More info and booking here.

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