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Distributed for Bard Graduate Center


Zen for Film

How do works of art endure over time in the face of aging materials and changing interpretations of their meaning? How do decay, technological obsolescence, and the blending of old and new media affect what an artwork is and can become? And how can changeable artworks encourage us to rethink our assumptions of art as fixed and static? Revisions is a unique exploration of all of these questions.

In this catalog, which accompanies an exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center, Hanna B. Hölling examines Zen for Film, also known as Fluxfilm no. 1, one of the most evocative works by Korean-American artist Nam June Paik. Created during the early 1960s, this piece consists of a several-minutes-long screening of blank film; as the film ages and wears in the projector, the viewer is confronted with a constantly evolving work. Because of this mutability, the project, as Hölling shows, undermines any assumption that art can be subject to a single interpretation.

By focusing on a single artwork and unfolding the inspirations, transitions, and residues that have occurred in the course of that work’s existence, Revisions offers an in-depth look at how materiality enhances visual knowledge. A fresh perspective on a piece with a rich history of display, this catalog invites interdisciplinary dialogue and asks precisely what—and when—an artwork might be.

100 pages | 22 halftones | 5 x 8 | © 2015

Art: Art--General Studies

Philosophy: General Philosophy

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“Hölling’s book offers a wild ride through a whodunit of sorts, as she describes in vivid detail her practical . . . efforts to exhibit and understand a single artwork for an exhibition at BGC gallery in the fall of 2015. . . . The challenge this opening-up of the object and its authorial framework implies for conservationists is immense.”

Critical Inquiry

“It is Hölling’s examination, in the catalogue, of the close mutual dependency of historical, conceptual, practical, and material concerns that begs our attention. These issues are all implicated in the installation, which challenges any notion of a monolithic identity of Zen for Film; they are unpacked in detail in the catalogue, where Hölling is at pains to show that considerations regarding the logistics of making and mounting the work must not be separated from the project's governing formal and historical themes.”


“Provides rich analysis and insights.”

ARLIS/NA Reviews

“Hölling’s non-linear, circular discourse aesthetically parallels how Zen for Film engages with duration, systems, process, media and time. The book’s attention to Zen for Film’s afterlife seems an important addition to existing historical analysis of the artwork, as it maps out a critical territory on which complex issues of conservation and curation of both ‘old’ and ‘new’ media unfold and intersect to develop new methodologies, sensibilities and strategies. It is thus a significant contribution towards a growing body of discourse, practice and research focusing on the afterlives of ‘new’ media artworks, and should be read by both conservators and curators engaging with such issues in the context of museums and galleries.”

Journal of Curatorial Studies

"After fifty years is 'Zen for Film' an experience, an object, a projection, or a relic? Holling examines the early history of the work, contemporaneous artworks that raised similar questions, and protocols for institutions that would borrow and exhibit examples from various public collections....Her examination raises points common to enough 20th- and 21st-century works that art historians concerned with the record as well as curators and conservators tasked with exhibiting and caring for them will have to acknowledge them."


"In Revisions—Zen for Film, Hanna B. Hölling offers many original observations about modern and contemporary art. Innovative in its conception and execution, Revisions investigates a critical moment in recent art history—namely, the appearance of 'new media' and its entry into, and historicization by, the art world and academia."

Matthew Jesse Jackson, University of Chicago

Revisions—Zen for Film is refreshing and thought provoking. It presents a new take on both exhibition histories and Paik studies through its close reading of a single work from many different informed perspectives, sparking unexpected associations. It skillfully brings together an art historical approach with that of a conservator and a curator, contributing a new way of thinking about conservation, preservation, and curatorial practice.”

Sarah Cook, coauthor of Rethinking Curating and cofounder of CRUMB

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