Pioneers of avant-garde video and performance, artist Nam June Paik and cellist Charlotte Moorman collaborated in Adelaide and Sydney during 1976 on an exhibition and series of more than 40 performances for Project 5. The exhibition included a selection of Paik’s famous video sculptures – constructions from TV sets that screened his experiments with synthesised video and feedback – and was accompanied by artistically and physically daring performances written by Paik and their contemporaries, including Jim McWilliams, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono and John Cage. They captured the attention of the media as Moorman performed naked with a cello carved from ice, swinging from a 12-metre trapeze, smothered in 13 kilograms of chocolate fudge, and suspended from balloons drifting above the Sydney Opera House forecourt.
Hailed as the ‘father of video art’ and the ‘Jeanne d’Arc of new music’, together Paik and Moorman fused music and sculpture, performance and video, challenging conventions and creating new sounds, images and experiences. Their exhibition in Australia was shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide and later the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, presenting newly created versions of Paik’s famous video sculptures TV Buddha
and Video Garden
and his sculptures created for Moorman, TV cello
, TV bed
and TV bra for living sculpture
At the time of their visit, Moorman and Paik had collaborated for over 10 years and together they presented a program of special recitals, performing Fluxus works composed by Paik and other collaborators. Special events were also staged by Moorman in both Adelaide and Sydney, including Ice music for Adelaide
, in which Moorman wore nothing but a wreath of flowers and played a 90-kilogram block of ice carved in the form of a cello, surrounded by radiators and spotlights, until the instrument melted. A daytime performance of Flying cello
in Adelaide’s Elder Park involved a highwire trapeze act conceived by Jim McWilliams. Mieko Shiomi’s Cello sonata
was another vertiginous performance by Moorman, who dangled her cello from a bamboo pole positioned at the top of the Adelaide Festival Theatre rooftop and then in Sydney from the roof of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
An Easter performance of Jim McWilliams’ Chocolate cello
was performed at Coventry Gallery in Sydney, with Moorman and her cello smeared in 13 kilograms of fudge. For the finale of the visit, Moorman performed Jim McWilliams’ Sky kiss
above the Sydney Opera House forecourt. Dressed in a black leotard and white satin cape, she played Jimmy Webb’s Up, up and away
, suspended by helium balloons.
This text is an edited excerpt from the publication 40 Years: Kaldor Public Art Projects