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Inside 'Lettres du Voyant: Joseph Beuys x Nam June Paik' at HOW Art Museum

Jan 23, 2018 | 17:28 Tue
Shanghai's one and only "night museum" HOW Art Museum continues to impress contemporary art lovers. Currently on display in this three-story building is a strong selection of works from two important Fluxus figures: Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik. One was a German avant-garde sculptor and performance artist, well-regarded in the US but whose work was once considered as the "most expensive trash of all time" at home. The other is the Korean-born multimedia artist, who spent the majority of his adult life in the west, and widely regarded as the "Father of Video Art". The two artists had formed a unique bond since 1961 in Germany and collaborated on many projects throughout their career.

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The exhibition borrows the eponymous title of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, to imply the exceptional visionary element of Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik ("Voyant") and their relations ("Lettres") in the 20th century. It first presents the multi-dimensional, neon-outlined psychedelic mind of Nam June Paik's, in which his TV installations took the forms of robots, motorcycles, music instruments, and Buddha statues. Under his hands, technologies were humanized well before home computers became a thing.

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Shanghai"

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Towards the last of chapter of his artistic journey, the exhibition makes the introduction of Beuys and Paik's influence on each other, which includes their final collaboration Coytote III, a live recording of their mesmerizing music performance in Tokyo, just two years before Beuys passed away.

Shanghai"

Shanghai"

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The second floor in comparison is much more serene and almost sterile, giving a nice contrast to Beuys' obsession with felt, fat and honey, and his often provocative ideas deployed to challenge society's norms. Videos of his iconic performance such as EURASIENSTAB and How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare are playing in separate rooms, accompanied with a series of literary pieces, art objects, and art installations providing historical context. The man had remained a mysterious figure for decades: Is he a heroic, conceptual art genius who foresaw the crisis of capitalism? Or a mad liar who never cut the ties with his reactionary roots? It's hard to make a sense of him, but the exhibition opens the door for you.

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'Lettres du Voyant' - Joseph Beuys X Nam June Paik runs from January 20 to May 13th, tickets available at 80rmb on SmartTicket

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