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One for Violin Solo by Nam June Paik

David Rosales

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Destroying musical instruments as an "artistic" gesture is old hat. The first time I saw a piano smashed with a sledge hammer I was shocked. Then the boy scout troop I belonged to decided it was the only way to dispose of the hulk in the hut that nobody played.

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9 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

The guy smashing the violin should learn how to play instead.

I know, right? He couldn’t even get first chair in the LA Phil! I guess it’s like the old saying goes, “those who can, do; those who can’t, smash.”


I think it was George Bernard Hulk who said that. 

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Artists have their reasons. Even my closest friends will not disclose personal thoughts of particular pieces.

Performance art is far more visceral for me. But the destruction of a violin is an everyday thing. I visit schools were instruments are mostly broken. I am currently removing one neck and fitting it on to the body of one with a shattered neck. Yes, shops might benefit. Some Art space, like the Tate might find a benefactor to fund the re- assembly of a destroyed piece in the museum.

Getting past the superficial. There is a lot of to be said for this particular piece. Paik's pieces are everywhere around the world ( my assumption is that this is the same artist. ) Paik is Korean, and in light of all the fantastic players performing globally were there thoughts? Also he reworks objects. Certainly this is an alternative sound. No symbolism? Sound designers break and smash all sorts of ( disgusting ) stuff. 

I also know of many people ( none here ) who would not hesitate to smash most older Japanese, Korean, Indian instruments - as well as many instruments from the western hemisphere. Parsing, ideas thoughts... there is always the rabbit hole. 

Honestly as an early teen, I used to dream of blowing up violins. Learning how to playing well, taught in the old way, can be a very frustrating thing. It also teaches patience and an appreciation of others. Once a ( non bowed ) instrument was destroyed, out of frustration. I was truly ashamed when my mother paid a family friend who was an exceptional luthier to repair the instrument. A past girlfriend also smashed her child's instrument. I realize this is not that *snap* that occurs but a curated piece. But there are parallels to reality, the surreal, the abstract, et al. We have other ways to be self-/ instrument- destructive. Do not need to tell you how many ribs were snapped. It sucks setting up the bandsaw to shave the plates and looking for a different pattern with a flatter arching

Thank you for the Nate Cole post. Pretty interesting notes. These discussions are relatively important. Watching a movie this weekend, there was a crash scene involving a '65 Mustang. I sort of flinched and someone sighed that it was only a car. 

Edited by GoPractice
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8 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

^The problem is someone with such deep thinking as that would come up with something fresh.  It's an uneducated attempt at something.  Surprised Nate signed off on it really. 

I can't tell if you're joking here... 

Nam June Paik is a legend.  Keep in mind that this is from 1962, 2 years before Pete Townshend first smashed a guitar on stage in 1964.

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1 hour ago, Bill Merkel said:

I never heard of him, but my thinking on it wouldn't depend on how legend he was.

Knowing that he's a legend might make you think twice about how quickly you reached your conclusion though?  He's a notable "deep thinker" and was steeped in the art world, so, not uneducated in the least.

I'd agree that anyone composing a piece now that included violin smashing isn't particularly "fresh" but back in 1962 it was.

The performer's post is worth reading if you didn't read it.  He and his wife came to the conclusion that it was "bad" art, but Fluxus was a product of the times and I can imagine a different critical analysis in the early 60s.

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I've done a version of that, there was a quiz online a few years ago asking "Is this painting by a famous modern artist or by an Elementary school child?"  It was very fun because of how difficult it was.  It was curated to be difficult, but it still got your point across.

Another version of this experiment (what makes modern art art?) is a piece I saw at a gallery a while ago, a recreation of Jannis Kounellis's Untitled (12 horses) which is simply live horses tethered in a gallery space with hay and horse poop, etc...  It forces you to ask yourself the questions: what makes something art?  Is something art just because it's in a gallery?  Is "art" just your own state of mind?

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