Project 05
Charlotte Moorman and
Nam June Paik

Project Summary

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.

Charlotte Moorman
& Nam June Paik


Moorman + Paik
Exhibition and performances 

Adelaide
22 – 26 March 1976
Art Gallery of South Australia; Adelaide Festival Theatre plaza; Adelaide Festival Theatre rooftop and Elder Park

Sydney
1 – 11 April 1976
Art Gallery of New South Wales; Coventry Gallery and Sydney Opera House forecourt

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Charlotte Moorman & Nam June PaikBack to top

Hailed as the ‘father of video art’ and the ‘Jeanne d’Arc of new music’, Paik and Moorman fused music and sculpture, performance and video, challenging conventions and creating new sounds, images and experiences. Through films, performances and installations, Nam June Paik remodelled our ways of seeing the temporal image in contemporary art, transforming museum architecture into energetic audiovisual spaces. Treating video art as performance works, Paik collaborated long term with Moorman, who had a background in classical training and became key figure in ‘new music’ in the 60s and 70s.

Education KitBack to top

This Education Kit explores the collaborative practice of cellist Charlotte Moorman and ‘father of video art’ Nam June Paik, and the series of performances and exhibitions presented during their 1976 visit to Australia.

LEARNING STAGES: Senior secondary (Stages 5-6) | Tertiary

CONTENTS: Introduction | Artist bio | Project | World events 1976 | Theme: video art | Art Gallery of NSW Collection connections | Selected references | Issues for discussion