Artists_Nam June Paik

25 May

Korean artist Nam June Paik died January 29th, 2006. Many of his works make use of multiple TV screens in various physical layouts, playing back video imagery to form collages or repeated patterns.

Korean artist Nam June Paik. This modern media piece showcases a large television display consisting of 70 video screens with references to American politics and culture 

January 30, 2006, 10.25 am

 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. This can be seen as a process grounded in his early interests in composition and performance which 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.

Over the years, his success and renown have grown steadily.The wide presence of the media arts in contemporary culture is in no small measure due to the power of Paik’s art and ideas.Through television projects, installations, performances, collaborations, development of new artists’ tools, writing, and teaching, he has contributed to the creation of a media culture that has expanded the definitions and languages of art making.

Video Flag, 1985-1996, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:

Paik’s life in art grew out of the politics and anti-art movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. During this time of societal and cultural change, he pursued a determined quest to combine the expressive capacity and conceptual power of performance with the new technological possibilities associated with the moving image.

 Using television, as well as the modalities of singlechannel videotape and sculptural/installation formats, he imbued the electronic moving image with new meanings. Paik’s investigations into video and television and his key role in transforming the electronic moving image into an artist’s medium are part of the history of the media arts. As we look back at the twentieth century, the concept of the moving image, as it has been employed to express representational and abstract imagery through recorded and virtual technologies, constitutes a powerful discourse maintained across different media.The concept of the moving, temporal image is a key modality through which artists have articulated new strategies and forms of image making; to understand them, we need to fashion historiographic models and theoretical interpretations that locate the moving image as central in our visual culture.

Paik’s latest creative deployment of new media is through laser technology. He has called his most recent installation a “post-video project,” which continues the articulation of the kinetic image through the use of laser energy projected onto scrims, cascading water, and smoke-filled sculptures. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Paik’s work shows us that the cinema and video are fusing with electronic and digital media into new image technologies and forms of expression. The end of video and television as we know them signals a transformation of our visual culture.

Nam June Paik, Buddha game 1991. Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Paik envisioned a different television, a “global groove” of artists’ expressions seen as part of an “electronic superhighway” that would be open and free to everyone.The multiple forms of video that Paik developed can be interpreted as an expression of an open medium able to flourish and grow through the imagination and participation of communities and individuals from around the world.

Paik, along with many artists working as individuals and within collectives through the 1960s 14 and 1970s to create work for television as well as for alternative spaces, challenged the idea of television as a medium and domain exclusively controlled by a monopoly of broadcasters.

This paradox in a twentieth-century modulation connects us to the Sartrian paradox “I am always not what I am and I am always what I am not.”6 -Paik, 1976

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