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The artist works (trans-)culturally: Nam June Paik and other Fluxus artists negotiating collaborative authorship

The project critically examines collaborative artistic practices and aesthetic concepts with the aim to question cultural conditions, demarcations and dynamics of contemporaneous and subsequent notions of artistic authorship which emerged in the early 1960s in connection with the network of Fluxus artists – dominantly active across Europe, the USA and Japan. The project will study a diachronically organized series of (partially) related collaborative constellations that each take Nam June Paik (1932-2006) as pivotal or contrasting figure. The synchronous analysis of Paik’s developing (power) positions and the ways in which he positioned himself or was positioned by others when collaborating with colleagues such as John Cage, Joseph Beuys, Charlotte Moormann, Shuya Abe or Shigeko Kubota will allow to discern structural similarities and differences of (collaborative) authorship, while it avoids presupposing the static notion of the author as singular, authoritative figure. Rather, hagiographic and evolutionist narratives as well as labels of Paik as the “father of video art” or “cultural nomad” will be examined as potential strategies to successfully constitute and preserve (his) authorship in various multi-vocal and multi-local discursive and institutional practices. In turn, boundaries, limits and moments of conflict, in which collaboration failed or in which reception questioned collaborative authorship, will be taken into account.

The project considers authorship as a fundamentally relational and procedural construct and strives for a transcultural perspective. The leading question is if and how these artists in their often emphatically stressed collaborative and participatory practices questioned the modernist myth of the “autonomous”, “individual” and “original” creative author, a figure not least fostered in romantic recourses to notions of subjectivity prominent since the European renaissance and canonized in artistic modernism at the beginning of the 20th century at the latest.

The leading question thus also addresses the epistemological problem that a particular model of artistic authorship – the modern male and “white” artist working as autonomous individual without (cultural) presuppositions aka as “original genius” – profoundly registered in art history when it was institutionalized as academic discipline in connection with industrial modernization, nation building, colonialism as well as imperialism far beyond Europe.

The project will address this problem by looking into how Nam June Paik and other Fluxus artists engaged with this conflicted genealogy of authorship, negotiating a post-modern artistic subjectivity in collaborative and transcultural ways in turn.

The project leader, Dr. phil. Franziska Koch, is indebted to the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung for the financial support of this research project by the Eliteprogram for Postdocs.

Duration: 3 years
Contact: koch[a]asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de

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Project members / Coordination

Franziska Koch

Publications

Talks and Public Events

May 26, 2018: Joint Seminars' Workshop: ExChanging Views on Korea

November 9, 2017: Post-graduate Colloquium "Report from the drafting table: N. J. Paik, questions of transculturality and collaborative authorship in Fluxus"

October 26-28, 2017: Seminar "How to cut and share the global pie: transcultural approaches to collaboration, participation and activism in art"

September 18-22, 2017: Talk "To catch up or not to catch up with the West – transcultural strategies of Nam June Paik in conflict with national taxonomies of the museum"

July 6-8, 2017: Talk "Collaboration, Authoship and Gender: Transcultural Strategies in the collaboration of Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik"