Daily Archives: December 1, 2011

Nam June Paik, Stephen Vitiello, & John Blatter

Nam June Paik, Stephen Vitiello, & John Blatter

TV Buddha by Nam June Paik, 1974

Nam June Paik was born July 20, 1932 in Seoul, South Korea. He died on January 29, 2006, but he is famous for his influence in technology-based art. He was the first video artist who experimented with electronic media and through this made a profound impact on the art of video and television. He graduated from the University of Tokyo, where he studied art, music theory, and philosophy, in 1956, six years after his family fled Korea during the Korean war. He was quite prolific and is remembered both for his fast-paced, color saturated videotapes and installations, as well as his far quieter and less colorful closed-circuit video sculpture, TV Buddha, which still evokes many questions in viewers as to the meaning of the particular sculpture. Paik seemed to have a creative tension with his past, due to the complex relationship he had with his Asian Heritage, but it led to much inspiration for his work, as well as inspiration for others. He was a very creative individual and nothing ever seemed to change that. In 1996 he had a stroke that paralyzed half his body, yet his creative energy never diminished and he continued to produce work for the remaining ten years of his life despite his handicap.

Stephen Vitiello – World Trade Center Recordings:


Stephen Vitiello – A Bell For Every Minute:


Stephen Vitiello was one of many artists who was influenced by Paik and remains changed due to the creative energy that was produced by Paik and his work. Vitiello, born in 1964, began playing guitar for punk bands in 1978 as a 14 year-old. He studied literature and plastic arts in college and in 1988, he got a job at an arts center and made a successful career curating video and sound-art installations. He met Nam June Paik in 1991. Vitiello worked for Paik: shooting video, devising sound systems, and as his assistant for various projects. This relationship blossomed out of the production of the Sub Rosa CD Works 1958-1979 from tapes Vitiello discovered due to his access to the artist’s archives. His relationship with Paik led to experimentation with guitar and electronics, finally focusing on the physical properties of sound, while keeping loose ties with his rock past. His first works were collaborations with filmmakers and video artists and his first album of stand-alone music was his 1997 album “The Light of Falling Cars,” which gathered encouraging reviews and gained interest. In 1999, he was offered a residency at the World Trade Center on the 91st floor. He set up photocells to record the “view” from the 91st floor and translated them through algorithms into synthesized music, which served as a basis for his album “Bright and Dusty Things.” One of his most recent works, “A Bell For Every MInute,” consists of 59 recordings of various bells in New York, from iconic bells to less known ones. The work was located in the 14th Street Passage, between West 13th Street and West 14th Street. It debuted on June 23, 2010, and remained in place till June 20, 2011. Vitiello is currently based in Richmond, VA, where he is an Associate Professor in the department of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University along with John Blatter, a co-worker in the Time Studio.

Moments by John Blatter, 2009-2010


John Blatter, born in 1972, is also a sound and video artist. He is also currently working as both Associate Professor in the Time Studio at Virginia Commonwealth University, and as Production Assistant in Performing Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. Although Vitiello and Blatter work together in the Art College of Virginia Commonwealth University, they have not collaborated on a project yet. Blatter also serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Constitutional, which is an artist-run publication which he initiated, comprised of artists’ writings, artists who write, and works made specifically for the publication. He created it in order to provide an outlet and forum for the individual Artist’s voice. Blatter’s goal is to combine the use of sound, video, and environment to sculpt an experience. He works to share his experiences with the viewer so that they may reflect on those of their own, vicariously through the experiences he is sharing with them and through his work. He believes that art is not just an object or an image but an experience that involves the senses, as well as the mind, which he believes shapes who we are, molds our identities, and creates individuality.

All three artists seem to have a similar approach to their art and strive for similar results. The primary goal of their work seems to be evoking emotion and reaction to the experiences they construct, whether in a museum or in an everyday outdoor environment. Through the various approaches and ideas they present in their art, different memories or thoughts are produced, depending on the person. For example, one person experiencing Vitiello’s recordings from the 91st floor of the World Trade Center might simply be intrigued while another may be devastated based on their emotional connection to the events of 9/11. As with art you view on a wall or a sculpture you observe, the video and sound art that created by these artists captures your emotions and brings out feelings that might not voluntarily show themselves. Through the exploration of their media, they produce work that’s beautiful and intriguing, just like a painter or sculptor does, but with a different interpretation and process.