Ecke Bonk, Nam June Paik

Zen for TV


Artist / Artist group
Ecke Bonk, Nam June Paik
Zen for TV
video, Video sculpture, tv sculpture
Material / Technique
manipulated CRT television set
Dimensions / Duration
66 x 61,5 x 47 cm
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

On a TV set tilted by 90°, a vertical, brightly lit line runs across the otherwise dark screen. The television image is reduced to a single line. Here, the television is an object that invites the viewer to concentrate on one of the simplest structures that exist - a line - instead of being distracted by rapidly changing television images.

Nam June Paik achieves this effect through a manipulative intervention on the picture tube. The television images are still broadcast, but instead of taking up the entire screen, the information is compressed onto one line. Paik first exhibited »Zen for TV« in 1963 in his legendary exhibition »Exposition of Music, Electronic Television« at the Parnass Gallery in Wuppertal. The exhibition is considered the birth of video art. The version of the work in the ZKM | Collection was created in 1986 by the conceptual artist Ecke Bonk, after Paik had shown him in Düsseldorf how to manipulate a television set for "Zen for TV". Bonk had found the Blaupunkt set used for this at a second-hand dealer.

Paik also applied the concept of »Zen for TV« to the medium of film. In »Zen for Film« (1964), an unexposed film runs through the projector in an endless loop, so that the projected image shows an almost blank screen that changes only because scratches damage the film and dust particles settle on the surface of the material.

Author: Judith Bihr

About the artist/s