Nam June Paik.
Nam June park was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1932 and died on 29th of January, 2006. He was a south Korean and an American video artist, performer, and a musician. He is credited for his ingenuity in developing both electronic and video technologies and it is for this reason that he is widely referred to as the pioneer of video art. His work portrays unmatched expertise and is very unique. His work is irreverent, has some absurd wit, it is playful in a way and shows technological expertise. Generally his work reflects high level of creativity. His video invention as a medium of expression has impacted society positively in a big way for it is possible to translate a mental image and convey it to others through video work. This research paper will conduct an in-depth analysis on the life of Nam June Park, how he developed as an artist and became a video master, his achievements in the entertainment field and how his work has impacted the American society and the world at large.
The paper starts off with a brief introduction of his life and then it proceeds in the main body to discuss about the impacts of his career and achievements. The paper ends by highlighting the main points that have been discussed and on the last page is a list of all the sources that were consulted in conducting this research and are properly formatted in accordance with MLA formatting style.
June Paik was born in Seoul and was a son to a textile manufacturer. His family moved to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape from atrocities of the Korean Civil War that had rocked their country. After sometime due to unknown reasons, his family relocated to Japan before moving to New York in the United States of America. It was while they were in Japan that Paik completed his university education and graduated with a degree in aesthetics by writing a thesis on Arnold Schoenberg from the University of Tokyo. After graduation, Paik went to Germany to pursue a course on history of music at Munich University. It was while he was in Germany that he met some big artists like John cage, Karl Heinz, Stockhaisen, Joseph Beuys and Volstel Wolf whose influence landed him to the field of electronic arts.
It was not the wish of his family for Paik to pursue music and art history in the university of Tokyo in fact they wanted him to focus on classical Asian music but contrary to their expectations Park’s heart was in the Western music and that was why he went to Germany to get a deeper knowledge on the subject. Paik’s interest in music started while he was still young and when he was about 14 years he had already mastered the art of composing songs and playing a piano something that prepared the ground for his future career. His ambitions received a major boost when he met John Cage in Germany who believed that life revolved around music and that it is everywhere and not simply limited to symphony hall as many people thought. “While in Germany, Paik met John Cage, which proved to be a critical juncture in the career of the young artist. Cage encouraged him to pursue avant-garde art rather than a career as a classical pianist” (Hallmark 181)
Another artist whose influence on June Paik cannot be underestimated is George Maciunas who was the pioneer for the radical art movement Fluxus where Paik was requested to join and willingly did so. This offer gave him an opportunity to experiment with electronic media something that he used as a platform to further his future video installations. It is also at this juncture that Park’s career took a new dimension as he departed from electronic music and moved to electronic music video (Hallmark, 182)
As a video artist, music composer and a performer, the role that June Paik played in preparing and introducing audiences and artists to a new turn of music where video would be used for artistic expression was pivotal. “His works explored the ways in which performance, music, video images and the sculptural form of objects can be used in various combinations to question our accepted notions of the nature of television” (The museum of Broadcast Communications)
While working at various production houses, Paik’s expertise in video as a medium of expression increased for example for six years starting from 1958 Paik worked in Elektronische Music Studio, Cologne and it is in 1959 that he performed his first music composition entitled Hommage a John Cage which was a synthesis of various on stage sounds made by people, motorcycle and other objects as well as sounds and music. In 1963 in Exposition of Music/Electronic Television – group exhibition, Paik succeeded in making the theatre more realistic by changing the nature of their comfort where they could seat back and watch entertainment taking place in unknown place to a place where they would actively take part in acting. The audiences were taken round the rooms where work of art was held and were shown how to play various objects and instruments that would change and move visuals and sounds by touching (Hallmark 182). Simply put, Paik was devising ways through which video image would be altered to make it better and that was why in the music exposition he tried to use various electronic gadgets that would produce effects to the images and this paved way for further development in video music for example the distorted TV which used sync pulse to manipulate images and Magnet TV where a big magnet would be used to alter the image and produce some patterns of light when passed near the television set (Heo W. Steven 7).
It was Paik who came with the idea of putting TV sets in robots something that marked the departure from earlier form of robots which were mainly made of wires and metal pieces to the later which incorporated electronic components. Just like how Paik was influenced by Cage, artists such as Kip Fulbeck, Varelie Soe and Mariko Morigot influenced by Paik’s they also and they also started to experiment with electronic media (Hallmark 182)
In 1963, Paik moved to Japan where in collaboration with Shuya Abe, a Japanese engineer developed a radio synthesizer and in the following year he moved to New York where he met Charlotte Moorman, a concert cellist who also greatly contributed in setting the stage for Paik’s work to be recognized internationally while at the same time building his reputation as a renown artist particularly by collaboratively integrating video music with performance. In 1964’s robot Opera, park at Avant Garde festival presented remote controlled robot controlled that could talk, walk eat and excrete beans. In 1967, Paik and Charlotte found themselves on the wrong side of the law for indecency as the later stripped during the show Museum (Moderner Kunst 2).
Initially Paik’s work was literal in its approach as he only used video monitors to express his mental ideas about technology and nature but from 1974 his work became more complex as he integrated other things for example a television he would set televisions amid live plants and tanks with swimming fish among other things. Through this period, his work became further refined as he expressed his global consciousness using multimedia satellite to broadcast his show and became a teacher and social activist.
Paik’s work embraces virtues of change and tries to reflect the way artistic works can be used to help people understand better the world and this is something that Nam Paik clearly expressed in his work the Worlds of Nam June Paik. In the 1990’s period his work became iconic and more sophisticated both expressively and technically for example during his 2000 Guggenheim museum’s exhibition, he created the whole of Frank Lloyd Wright’s environment in a video while giving his history and achievements.
Paik’s is popular for his works such as Good morning, Mr. Orwell (1984), Bye Bye Kipling (!986), The more the better (1988) Unfortunately in 1996, TV Buddha (1974), TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) Paik developed stroke which left him a paralyzed man for years until on 29th of January 2006.
Indeed the work Nam June Park will forever remain fresh in the minds of people. He was the pioneer of video music where he successively transformed video images from mere representations of events and objects to impressive artistic expression of the same. Paik is very popular for the role he played in changing adding images in music. He is credited for making technological advances in video and was the first to use video and television in robots making a departure from the old form of robot where only wires and metal pieces were used.
Hallmark, Kara Kelley. Encyclopedia of Asian American artists. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. Available at
Heo W. Steven. Nam June Paik and Intercultural Shamanism. Available at http://www.geocities.com/su_film/Paik_Shaman_final.pdf
Museum Moderner Kunst. Nam June Paik: Music for all Senses. Press reformation. 2009. Available at http://www.dicea.unifi.it/~sbert/guglielmi/ArchIII2005- 2006/nam%20june%20paik1.pdf
The Museum of Broadcasting Communications (MBC). Paik, Nam June: US video artist. Accessed from http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/P/htmlP/paiknamjun/paiknamjun.htm