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Nam June Paik, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 1989

Video and sculptural installation


Television and radio cabinets, colour television screens, laserdisc and player, wooden horse and felt hat 234,5 x 112 x 119 cm


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Collection 1990.30a-g


Gift of Esperanza and Mark Schwartz

Nam June Paik, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 1989, Video and sculptural installation, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Collection. Photo: Christine Guest, MMFA.

Part of the permanent collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a work by Korean artist Nam June Paik. Born in Seoul (Korea) in 1932, Paik died in Miami (Florida, United States) in 2006. Produced in Cincinnati (Ohio, United States) in 1989, this video and sculptural installation is composed of the following equipment: television and radio cabinets, colour television screens, laserdisc and player, wooden horse and felt hat.


Royal Canadian Mounted Police is composed of old television and radio cabinets, of different shapes and sizes displayed in their usual position, on their side or their back, in which 11 colour CRT (cathode ray tube) screens are inserted. The sets are mounted in such a way creating the silhouette of a rider who is riding on a wooden horse and wearing a hat, reminiscent of the official hat worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The television screens transmit images from the same colour video source, be it a looped montage presenting, among other things, images of the RCMP carousel or of Canadian flags. These images, produced by a laserdisc player, are viewed through Plexiglas or glass plates, as well as fabric and metallic grids placed in front of the cabinet openings. The video signal is first transformed by an RF modulator and then passed into the RF video amplifier distributors to enter into the VHF 75 Q outlet or the TV external antenna outlet (EXT. ANT.).


Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been part of the MMFA collection since 1990. The technologies used in the work suggest the need to take action in terms of preservation and to explore conservation approaches which could be adopted for the main components of the work (laserdisc, CRT screens). One of the difficulties is that the artist was not consulted about these issues before his death in 2006. The MMFA must now consult Nam June Paik Studios before any transformations are done to the work.


The main conservation problem is that CRT television screens are becoming less and less available on the market and are being replaced by plasma and LCD screens instead. In contrast to other works where the supplementary equipment for its presentation is provided by the institution, all TV screens were acquired as part of the work. With time, technical problems will likely arise and could have repercussions on the quality of the transmitted image. One of the main priorities is to ensure the basic maintenance of the TV screens by minimizing wear-and-tear. Currently, the MMFA does not have supplementary TV screens. The storage of the TV screens would then appear to be a mid-term conservation option to be examined by the MMFA’s restoration services. The task is further complicated because some of the TV screens were originally manufactured in Korea and are therefore not easily found on the market. In order to preserve the aesthetic aspect of the work, new TV screens of the same-size could potentially replace the original Korean television. Emulation and migration represent other possible solutions of ensuring future presentations of the work although there is an associated risk of loss of authenticity and integrity.


Another potentially problematic element of the work is the video as only one laserdisc had been initially provided. In 2001, this master copy started jumping with certain images, partly because of the different recorded effects (distortion, noise, etc.) intended by the artist. Due to the risk of information loss or playback malfunctions caused by the material instability of the disk, the MMFA obtained a more stable Betacam SP videocassette, which was produced from the original and could be used to create new exhibition copies. Eventually the video content could be migrated to a more recently developed format.


Descriptive table of Nam June Paik, Royal Canadian Mounted Police