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Artist

Nam June Paik (1932-2006)

Title

Magnet TV

Date

1965

Medium

Modified black-and-white television set and magnet

Dimensions

Overall: 28 3/8 × 19 1/4 × 24 1/2 in. (72.1 × 48.9 × 62.2 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from Dieter Rosenkranz

Accession number

86.60a-b

Object Label

Magnet TV is an early example of Nam June Paik’s “prepared televisions,” in which he altered the television image or its physical casing. This work, which was featured in Paik’s first solo exhibition in New York, consists of a seventeen-inch black-and-white set on which an industrial-sized magnet rests. The magnetic field interferes with the television’s electronic signals, distorting the broadcast image into an abstract form that changes when the magnet is moved. Paik’s radical action undermines the seemingly inviolable power of broadcast television by transforming the TV set into a sculpture, one whose moving image is created by chance procedures and can be manipulated at will. Through his transformation of the television image, Paik challenged the notion of the art object as a self-contained entity and established a process of instant feedback, in which the viewer’s actions have a direct effect on the form and meaning of the work. The interactive quality of Magnet TV paralleled the audience involvement essential to performance art and Happenings of the early 1960s, and also anticipated the participatory nature of much contemporary art.

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