Nam June Paik’s Seminal “Moon is the Oldest TV”
August 28, 2007
In homage to this morning’s Full Moon Lunar Eclipse (2 to 4 AM), a revisit of Nam-june Paik’s video installation, “Moon is the Oldest TV,” feels appropriate.
Moon is The Oldest Television – 1965-67 (1996)
TV Moniter,projector and video
The Moon vis-à-vis the Beholder
In 1963 America put the first man on the moon, an event broadcast live on television sets around the world. That year, that day, that hour and even those minutes are punched into the timeclock of global consciousness. Two years later, Paik reflects on this event with “Moon is the Oldest TV.” The installation is composed of a single row of Philco television sets on individual pedestals. On their screens play a progression of reprocessed black-and-white video footage from full moon to new moon.
“…the observed distance is not simply subjective, due to the fact that the same object which exists “out there” is seen from two different stances, or points of view.
It is rather that, as Hegel would have put it, subject and object are inherently mediated so that an “epistemological” shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an ontological shift in the object itself.
Or -to put it in Lacanese– the subject’s gaze is always-already inscribed into the perceived object itself, in the guise of its “blind spot,” that which is “in the object more than object itself”, the point from which the object itself returns the gaze. Sure the picture is in my eye, but I am also in the picture.
Denial is also an extention of parallax and the moon landing as a staged event is a rock that revisionist historians(negationism) cling to. (Click here for video from Moon Hoax Documentary – Fox News.)
As I contemplate Paik’s installation and the mythos of moon watching, I am immediately drawn to the Apollo Moon Landing hoax accusations which claim the Apollo Moon landings were faked by NASA.
A year after the first moon landing, Knight Newspapers conducted a poll of 1721 U.S. citizens and found that more than 30 percent of all of the poll’s respondents were “suspicious of NASA’s trips to the Moon” with the number rising to over half in some demographic areas. The Newsweek article that published the poll results noted that among the respondents were “an elderly Philadelphia woman who thought the moon landing had been staged in an Arizona desert” and a “housewife” whose suspicions were based on her belief that her television could not “receive signals from the moon.” Another respondent said, “It’s all a deliberate effort to mask problems at home . . . the people are unhappy – and this takes their minds off their problems.” …
Fox television’s 2001 TV special “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Land on the Moon?” … said roughly 20 percent of the public had doubts about the authenticity of the Apollo program…
A Dittmar Associates poll in 2006 showed that among 18-26 year old college-educated students “27 percent expressed some doubt that NASA went to the Moon, with 10 percent indicating that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that a Moon landing had ever taken place.”
James Oberg, an American journalist who writes about space (and has worked for NASA’s space shuttle program), estimates that “perhaps 10 percent of the population, and up to twice as large in specific demographic groups” believe in the hoax or have some doubts about the Apollo program “It’s not just a few crackpots and their new books and Internet conspiracy sites,” Oberg said in 1999. “There are entire subcultures within the U.S., and substantial cultures around the world, that strongly believe the landing was faked. …
Our American culture’s shifting regard for both the physical truth and the unifying vision of the Apollo Moon Landing just in the last 45-years, speaks to a jadedness deep in our belief system. We fear being conned. We keep one hand on our wallets. We are pessimistic about our past. We distrust the future.
This nation grown wary of shared feel-good moments is like the frog-in-the-well surrounded by a dark pit of complexity. The only way out, perhaps, is through art. In the literary and visual arts we are willing to suspend our disbelief in order to reach a simpler truth.