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Artists Nam June Paik
Nam June Paik Photo

Nam June Paik

Korean American Composer, Performer, Sculptor, Video and Digital Artist

Movements and Styles: Performance Art, Body Art

Born: July 20, 1932 - Seoul, South Korea

Died: January 29, 2006 - Miami, Florida, United States

Nam June Paik Timeline

Quotes

"The only way to win a race is to run alone."
Nam June Paik
"(Video synthesizer is) a device that would
enable us to shape the TV canvas
as precisely as Leonardo
as freely as Picasso
as colorfully as Renoir
as profoundly as Mondrian
as violently as Pollack and
as lyrically as Jasper Johns"
Nam June Paik
"Information is no longer a means to get something live and concrete, but has become an end in itself. The age of 'Information's Sake" is dawning after a hundred years of 'Art for Art's Sake.' Communications flow is the new metabolism of Homo sapiens. Constant change in taste and fashion is an organic input/output process equivalent to the transformation of food in protoplasm; as natural as breathing in our body, waves in the sea, or the waning of the moon. Someday brain-power must prevail over oil-power and petrol will become as obsolete as the dinosaur."
Nam June Paik
"While movie, TV technique will be revolutionized, the scope of electronic music will be widened to the new horizon of electronic opera, painting and sculpture will be shaken up, intermedia art will be further strengthened, bookless literature, paperless poem will be born."
Nam June Paik
"The building of new electronic super highways will become an even huger enterprise. Assuming we connect New York with Los Angeles by means of an electronic telecommunication network that operates in strong transmission ranges, as well as with continental satellites, wave guides, bundled coaxial cable, and later also via laser beam fiber optics: the expenditure would be about the same as for a Moon landing, except that the benefits in term of by-products would be greater."
Nam June Paik
"Suppose a girl in Kentucky wants to study the Japanese Koto instrument, and a graduate at U.C.L.A. wants to experiment with certain Persian or Afghanistan musical instruments. How would they do this? The malleable television (i.e. videotape) would enable individual lessons for many subjects to be given from anywhere to anywhere."
Nam June Paik
"What we need now is a champion to free trade, who will form a Video Common Market modeled after the European Common Market in its spirit and procedure; this would strip the hierarchy of TV culture and promote the free flow of video information through an inexpensive barter system or convenient free market."
Nam June Paik

"Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence."

Nam June Paik Signature

Synopsis

Nam June Paik, known as "the father of video art," surfed the forefront of cutting edge technologies and utilized them to realize artworks, the likes the world had never yet seen. His various experiments positioned video as a viable art form, and a tool toward accomplishing widespread, global connectivity - an oeuvre eerily prophetic to our contemporary information age. His revolutionary practice laid the groundwork for today's artists working in new media art.

Key Ideas

Paik's early training in classical music combined with his interest in utilizing sound elements from real life, inspired by artist John Cage, positioned his career early as a member of the Fluxus movement. His passion for combining audio, visual, and electronic elements was formed there.
A keen desire to humanize technology underlies all of Paik's work. Whether this is seen through the combination of anthropomorphic objects with video imagery of human beings, the use of a live person in dialogue with technological components, or equipment as a performance, or the forced interaction of a viewer with a particular artwork - his work incites reflection on both our relationship with technology and its affects on, and benefits for, modern man.
Very early in his career, Paik began writing about his desire for a "video common market" that would allow for the free dissemination of not only artwork, but also education, collaboration, and dialogue on an international scale. His ideas have come full circle with the advent of today's Facebooks and Youtubes - the online platforms that draw users by the billions.
Paik coined the term "electronic superhighway" to denote what he saw as a future in which technology would allow for boundary-less connection between people on a global scale. His term might be considered the first mention of the concept that would eventually become manifest in the Internet, and is in fact, the term used universally today.

Biography

Nam June Paik Photo

Childhood

Nam June Paik was born into a bourgeois manufacturing family in 1932 Seoul, during a turbulent time when Korea was under Japanese rule (1910-1945). Whereas most Koreans were only granted access to a primary school education under restrictions by the Japanese, Paik was trained as a classical pianist from a very young age. Perhaps this was due to the fact that his father was later rumored to be a Chinilpa, or Japanese sympathizer, whose successful business also contributed greatly to the economic capital of the time. In 1950 at the onset of the Korean War, Paik's family fled to Hong Kong, and later moved to Japan. They first arrived in the port city of Kobe and stayed at a Japanese inn for six months before they settled into a Western-style house, a rarity in those days. The house was in the seaside town of Kamakura, home of the famous Great Buddha statue that Paik often visited and which possibly inspired some of his later works, such as TV Buddha (1974).

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Nam June Paik
Interactive chart with Nam June Paik's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Influences on Artist
Nam June Paik
Nam June Paik
Years Worked: 1953 - 2005
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jiete Li

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jiete Li
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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