Thursday, February 02, 2006

Nam June Paik dies at 74

In 2001, Mrs. Mac and I sailed from London, England, to Bilbao, Spain, to see the Armani Collection and The Worlds of Nam June Paik at the Museo Guggenheim.

I had seen Paik installations in New York over the years, but had never seen a large collection of his installations. One piece was a collaboration with David Bowie during his "Serious Moonlight" Tour. Other collaborators, dating back to the late-1950s, include Laurie Anderson, Joseph Beuys, Bowie, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham.

Paik's work often combined nudity and technology, or humans and technology, and were the cornerstone for artscapes ranging from simple video installations to surveillance art. Paik was the godfather of the music video that has so insidiously altered electronic communications.

Paik's work was ground-breaking and his death is a loss to what is left of civilization.

See more information about his life and work at his web site.

Nam June Paik, the avant-garde composer who was credited with being the inventor of video art, has died. He was 74.

The Korean-born Paik died Sunday night of natural causes at his Miami apartment, according to his Web site.

Paik played a pivotal role in using video as a form of artistic expression. A member of the Fluxus art movement, Paik combined the use of music, video images and sculptures.

Paik's work has gained international praise from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, among others, and much of his work is on display at the Nam June Paik Museum in Kyonggi, South Korea.

He completed degrees in music and aesthetics in Japan before pursuing graduate work in philosophy. Some of his experiments were in radio and television, and he is thought to have coined the terms "information superhighway" and "the future is now."

Paik made his artistic debut in Wiesbaden, West Germany, in 1963 with a solo art exhibition titled "Exposition of Music-Electronic Television." He scattered 12 television sets throughout the exhibit space and used them to create unexpected effects in the images being received. Later exhibits included the use of magnets to manipulate or alter the image on TV sets and create patterns of light.

He moved to New York in 1964 and started working with classical cellist Charlotte Moorman to combine video, music and performance.

In "TV Cello" they stacked television sets that formed the shape of a cello. When she drew the bow across the television sets, there were images of her playing, video collages of other cellists and live images of the performance.

In one highly publicized incident, Moorman was arrested in 1967 in New York for going topless in performing Paik's "Opera Sextronique." Said one headline: "Cops Top a Topless 'Happening.'" In a 1969 performance titled "TV Bra for Living Sculpture," she wore a bra with tiny TV screens over her breasts.

"TV Bra for Living Sculpture" and "TV Cello" are on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Paik's journey as an artist has been truly global, and his impact on the art of video and television has been profound.To foreground the creative process that is distinctive to Paik's artwork, it is necessary to sort through his mercurial movements, from Asia through Europe to the United States, and examine his shifting interests and the ways that individual artworks changed accordingly. It is my argument that Paik's prolific and complex career can be read as a process grounded in his early interests in composition and performance. These would strongly shape his ideas for mediabased art at a time when the electronic moving image and media technologies were increasingly present in our daily lives. In turn, Paik's work would have a profound and sustained impact on the media culture of the late twentieth century; his remarkable career witnessed and influenced the redefinition of broadcast television and transformation of video into an artist's medium.

Many thanks to Deathwatch Central for this obituary

Dick Mac Recommends:

The Worlds of Nam June Paik
Nam June Paik

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