Nam June Paik Sculpture at Worcester Art Museum

Vol. 1, No. 3 - Spring 2001

Housed in the Contemporary Gallery of the Worcester Art Museum is a unique video robot-sculpture entitled "Robert Goddard". A 1997 WAM acquisition, this work is an example of the creator of the piece, Nam June Paik's approach to art which blends obsolete electronic equipment around a theme--in this case, Robert H. Goddard and space flight.

The video-robot was purchased for the museum by Mary and Donald Melville, Linda and John Nelson, and the Theodore T. and Mary G. Ellis Fund for $75,000. At that time, it was considered a somewhat controversial and perplexing piece of art.

This is what you see when you visit this piece: An old Zenith television cabinet, a Kenny Cathedral radio cabinet, twelve KEC 9" television sets, a Samsung 13" tv, metal cylinders, aluminum framework, flashing strobe lights, neon tubes, two Pioneer laser disk players and two laser disks. These items are arranged in a pyramid to depict a space launch, with the two cylinders representing Goddard rockets. "Goddard" is a visual feast with flashing lights, neon "flames," and tapes playing on the television screens.

Paik's Goddard sculpture represents the most advanced way of physically traveling--via space. By incorporating the electronic media into this work, he was also linking electronic travel, especially signals transmitted by satellite which were a product of Goddard's work. Robert G. would be most intrigued!

Thank you to Virginia Harding and David R. Brigham of the WAM curatorial department who delved into the museum archives to find this information.