Perpetuum Mobile Exhibition – Section 02: Photography, Video Works, Nam-June Paik Masterclass

Michael Bielicky - Perpetuum Mobile - 02 - Photography, Video Works, Nam-June Paik Masterclass - 2020

[0:14] And we enter a wonderful space, which contains several short tapes, made in my early Nam-June Paik study days. This is not yet video but film, double 8mm-film, it is called Four Seasons and was later transferred onto video. Interesting about this film is that it is shot two times with a camera. It was not split, as this format was generally in the laboratory. I projected it with a 16mm-projector, not with 8mm, so you had to shoot one scene on the right forward and the other backward, so you had to make some kind of screen book how to do it so everything fits in the end. It is called Four Seasons, there are no seasons in a traditional way, spring, summer, autumn and winter, but season of love, season of depression, season of disappearance and so on – so a different kind of seasons.

[1:47] Here we go back to my New York time in the early 80s living in a legendary atelier, a house build by Richard Meyer, a rebuild factory as a first loft building for artists, at the Hudson River in the Mead district. There are some pictures of this early days: Christopher Street and so on. So this is the beginning. With this material I was accepted by Bernd Becher in the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, where I didn’t remain for long, because I met Nam-June Paik and this was my destiny.

[2:42] Here we have another tape, Circulus Viciosus, which is just ending, using very early computer editing techniques for titles in 1984 or 1985, which was pretty innovative. This work is one of the earliest video works I did, probably my first real video art work. This works generally have no beginning or end, they are very short, about four minutes but they could last two, five or fifty minutes. It is called Cirulus Viciosus a meditation about vicious circles as a life pattern on many levels: in culture, in biology, psychology and so on.

[3:46] A similar work is here, Perpetuum Mobile, as we said earlier the name of the show. This is another endless tape, showing perpetuum-mobile-principles as a kind of meta-principle of being, of human beings and so on.

[4:05] Another manifestation of this principle is here, Perpetuum Mobile II: those were dancers in Central Park in New York mixed with people in a tower in a coffee place, animated, almost an abstraction, endless, with no beginning, no end.

[4:34] This is from a small collection of my cameras, film cameras, little beings, they have a real character, they are very rock-steady, made to last forever, built to last. They have funny shapes, those look like weapons, they are German, this sleek one is French or Belgian, this is the smallest mechanical film camera ever made, this a Czechoslovakian spy camera and here another German weapon. So they have character and I have partly used them for my work, they are part of this whole 20th century moving image movement.

[5:26] This table and this whole room is dedicated to my time in Nam-June Paik’s studio in the Academy: there are lots of catalogues and documents, there is an original Meisterschüler Brief [master class letter] of Paik, signed by Markus Lüpertz. There is another paper, a paper which proves that I have the right to pilot a horse carriage around New York, a license I received in new York in the early 80s: when I ran out of money I became a horse cab driver in and around Central Park. There is a wonderful recommendation letter by Nam-June Paik, saying:

[6:25] Michael Bielicky is a teaching assistant of mine in Düsseldorf Academy for two years. He has a lot of idea drive and talent. Thanks for your help.

[6:37] So it is not clear if this is fun or serious or simply a wonderful art piece. There are magazines I published my photographs in before entering the Academy. Here we are burning, together with Nam-June Paik, hats of Joseph Beuys, he for his documenta piece, me and my friend Ricardo Peredo for our documentation of the destruction of the Fettecke, Fat Corner of Joseph Beuys in the Art Academy. There is an interview, a wonderful interview with Nam-June with his students, very strange and there are some documentary pictures from the time, about the school actions and exhibitions. This picture is with Nam-June shooting the burning hats. This is with Nam-June and Woody Vasulka in Düsseldorf in the 80s and this is in the studio where I edited my early video tapes, where I spent lots of time.

[7:53] There is another piece, a short film of Prague, from the Jewish Cemetery, Golem Is Alive, from early days when the Cemetery was still open to the public, you didn’t have to pay for entry and could walk wherever you liked, what is not possible anymore today.

[8:17] This here is a great, wonderful grid of hundreds of hours of videos and shows in public and in private, thirty years of different events of mine and deep friends and was thought of and edited by Paul Kenig and the only way to condense this big amount of data.

[8:40] There is a corner with the Fettecke or Fat Corner, the famous tape of Joseph Beuys’s destruction in the Art Academy, it is forty minutes and features many prominent people of that time, like Kasper König, Nam-June Paik, Harald Naegeli, the famous sprayer and many others appearing and discussing what was right and what was wrong and is a partly funny, partly serious discussion about the destruction of art.