Visitors to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art are greeted by the sight of the massive 19-foot Vide-O-belisk by the renowned Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, the father of video art. Built from antique television cabinets and adorned with neon eyes and musical notes, the obelisk, the last major work Paik finished prior to his death in 2006, silently watches over the museum's rotunda. And there's something not quite right about that. A piece as epic as Paik's, in a place as rowdy as Memphis, needs its own soundtrack, and the Brooks is hoping that area musicians and composers will step up to fill the void.
"This is Memphis," says Luis Seixas, a conservator at the Brooks, referencing the city's rich sonic heritage, the inspiration for something he calls "the Paik project."
Seixas has a history of working with musicians. Before coming to the States, Seixas co-founded a record label that put out 65 CDs in only 10 years. The first round of soundtracks for Vide-O-belisk was created by a handpicked crop of local players, including Jonathan Kirkscey, Pieter Nooten, and Shelby Bryant. Now that the first compilation has been assembled and is available for download online, Seixas is putting out an open call to locals.
"There's not a deadline," Seixas explains. "When we have enough, we'll make another compilation."
Paik was a musician before he was a video artist, and many of his installations have included original compositions. The Vide-O-belisk plays loops of instruments and images of musical innovators like Laurie Anderson and Elvis Presley. Now the time has come for this quiet giant to make some noise.
For additional information, visit brooksmuseum.org.