Vid-O-belisk, I Never Knew You


When news broke this week that Nam Jun Paik's massive "Vid-O-belisk" is in the process of coming down, no longer to hold its traditional place in the center of the Brooks Museum of Art's rotunda, I felt a mix of emotions. The first of these was relief, because I have long held a grudge against the "Vid-O-belisk" for being, IMHO, not a very good work of art from an otherwise great artist. The second emotion I felt was nostalgia for my stint working as a caterer at the Museum, because "Vid-O-belisk," with its squiggly neon and antique video art, was a functional compass for us servers. "Go to the table nearest the red owl thinger," we would instruct each other. 

With that in mind, I Facebook chatted local painter and my old catering co-worker, Dimitri Stevens, and we remembered the "Vid-O-belisk" in all its clunky glory. Here is what we recalled:

Nam Jun Paik's "Vid-O-belisk" (2002) - BROOKS MUSEUM OF ART
  • Brooks Museum of Art
  • Nam Jun Paik's "Vid-O-belisk" (2002)

Eileen: Hi, Dimitri! How are you on this day? A day when the "Vid-O-belisk" is no longer the first thing you see in Memphis' biggest art Museum?

I'm doing fine Eileen. It's a little hollow inside the Brooks now-a-days.

Eileen: Well, we'll always have our memories of working catering events at the Brooks, trying to dodge the massive tower of antique TVs in the middle of the rotunda.

Dimitri: The neon will be remembered as well.

Eileen: You're right. The best thing about the ol' "Vid-O-belisk" were those little neon squigglies attached to the side of the TVS like a case of viral worms, which the catering staff affectionately named things like "Pineapple Parrot." Can you remember any of the names?

No, I'm not too savvy on the names, but the squiggles seemed to range from stick figures to simplified architecture.

Eileen: There were definitely some music notes on there. And a weird eye. I'm partial to the Pi symbol and the lil neon buddha. What message do you think Nam Jun Paik was trying to send with this tower of junk TVs and random symbols?

Dimitri: I was thinking it's about accumulated cultures through technology.

Eileen: That's probably it. We used to cater a lot of weddings that happened around this monument to accumulated cultures through technology. In your honest opinion, would you invite the "Vid-O-belisk" to your wedding?

Dimitri: Definitely. I don't have any big wedding plans yet, but it was an overall beautiful piece.

It wasn't my cup of tea, but I know it brought joy to many. Thank you for taking this moment to remember the "Vid-O-belisk" with me. And cheers to whatever comes next.

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