For the exhibition that commemorates the thirty years of the MMCA, we were invited to take the museum’s collection and create an interpretation. We selected two works in the collection, Two Moons by Kim Whanki and Moon Is the Oldest TV by Nam June Paik. (For the record, we had conceived and proposed this work before the show was titled, and the moon-theme in our piece has nothing to do with the name of the exhibition.)
Kim Whanki liked to paint the moon. His 1961 painting Two Moons shows the images of mountains, clouds, and rivers reflected on two moons. For the artist working abroad, the moon seems to have provided a screen on which he could project what he loved yet lost.
Nam June Paik’s 1965 installation Moon Is the Oldest TV consists of twelve television sets that show a series of moon-like images from fully shaped circles to waning forms. It has been suggested that Paik’s inspiration behind this work was the traditional Korean practice of identifying the markings of the moon as a rabbit. Here, too, the moon is understood as a screen to project images.
Now, in 2016, what would we want to project on it? Probably not any nostalgia or mythical imagination. Instead, when we looked up at the moon, we saw a pop rice snack. If fact, it would be amazing if the moon is a gigantic piece of pop rice. And the way it is made – by puffing up a small handful of grains into a large piece of delicacy – reminds of the compressed history of rapid growth in Korea since the 1960s, when both Kim Whanki and Nam June Paik created their moons.
Two Moons and Another Moon and Another Moon Is a TV are “videos” that illustrate the phase of the moon during the four months of the exhibition by the changing shape of a pop rice, which was eaten bite by bite to portray the wane. The videos are “synchronized” – at the rate of one frame per day – with the actual movement of the moon: each day, they display a new picture of the pop rice, which is set to correspond to the day’s shape of the moon. At the exhibition, they were installed in conversation, respectively, with Kim Whanki’s and Nam June Paik’s moons.