Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Understanding a diverse nation through technology
Electronic Superhighway is one of the most noted works of Korean Nam June Paik artist. It illustrates how he interpreted a diverse nation through media technology. The Electronic Superhighway is a large installation, constructed with 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing.
Electronic Superhighway creates an overwhelming impact on visitors when they first see it. The wave of audio and visual media along with flashing neon lights make it awe-inspiring. It becomes challenging to concentrate on any state that the neon lights border or the video dialogues that play for each state.
Lucio Fontana – Struttura al Neon per la IX Triennale di Milano, 1951/2017, installation view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2017
Photo: Agostino Osio
Lucio Fontana’s interest in technological and scientific advancements that occurred during the 20th century largely inspired his approach to a wide array of methods and mediums. For instance, he has worked with stone, neon, ceramics and even metals. As a painter, he went beyond two-dimensional surfaces by engaging technology as a means to attain expressions of the 4th dimension. By going beyond the expected, Lucio managed to create an innovative and new aesthetic dialect that blended painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Tavares Strachan – You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3
Tavares Strachan showed his large-scale flowing sculpture in 2014. The sculpture was part of the Prospect.3: Notes for Now biennial show that occurred between October 2014 and January 2015 in New Orleans.
Strachan’s project was a declarative statement and performance that was entitled You Belong Here. The installation featured a 100-foot neon art piece that would be transported from one location to another on a 140- foot barge on the Mississippi River. The barge that carried the neon piece was made visible from different regions and places throughout New Orleans. It was created to pass on a message to the residents of the city, encouraging the city dwellers to examine themselves and what the city of New Orleans means to them and their futures.
Tracey Emin – Trust Yourself, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Miami, USA, 2014
Neon lights are commonly used to make attractive business signs and are mostly preferred for outdoor use especially at night. The colorful array of neon light options makes it a creative marketing tool since lights are used to illuminate an underlying text message or image. There is no limit to what medium an artist can use to express themselves and for Tracey Emin (b.1963), it has been over 26 years of using neon consistently as a creative medium. The process of creating an art piece for her often begins with coming up with a message, usually a thought or a feeling. This is then followed by bending light tubes to assume the curves and profile of what has been written. Many artists have used neon lights as a medium since the 1960s but while many preferred to use molded letters and neutral writing, Tracey Emin stands out because she has chosen to use her own handwriting. Art critics will admit that using one’s own handwriting is rather daring but also a way to stamp personality and individuality in all pieces created.
Cyprien Gaillard – Neon Indian, 2011, neon tubes, steel construction, 10m, Haus der Statistik, Alexanderplatz, Berlin
Photo: Krzysztof Zielinski
Cyprien Gaillard (b. 1980 in Paris) put up the enormous Neon Indian on the Haus der Statistik at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin. The Indian is reminiscent of the logo of the US Baseball team Cleveland Indians. Gaillard often uses this in 1894 created image and refers to the use of indian names and mascots in the US, despite their extermination. Even though those images seem outmoded, they still continue to exist in mass culture, and although Indians were victims of exclusion, some part of their culture serves as marketing tools for American sport teams and others.