Feb 12, 2006
posted at 16:43 GMT by T.Whid in /news/twhid
Shit. The world has lost a great and influential artist.
There’s an article on MSNBC too.
Below, the entire NYT obit by Roberta Smith.
Nam June Paik, 73, Dies; Pioneer of Video Art Whose Work Broke Cultural Barrierspermanent link to this post
By ROBERTA SMITH
Published: January 31, 2006
Nam June Paik, an avant-garde composer, performer and artist widely considered the inventor of video art, died Sunday at his winter home in Miami Beach. He was 73 and also lived in Manhattan.
Nam June Paik in 2004 with one of his installations at the Deutsche Guggenheim Museum in Berlin.
Mr. Paik suffered a stroke in 1996 and had been in declining health for some time, said his nephew, Ken Paik Hakuta, who manages his uncle’s studio in New York.
Mr. Paik’s career spanned half a century, three continents and several art mediums, ranging through music, theater and found-object art. He once built his own robot. But his chief means of expression was television, which he approached with a winning combination of visionary wildness, technological savvy and high entertainment values. His work could be kitschy, visually dazzling and profound, sometimes all at once, and was often irresistibly funny and high-spirited.
At his best, Mr. Paik exaggerated and subverted accepted notions about both the culture and the technology of television while immersing viewers in its visual beauty and exposing something deeply irrational at its center. He presciently coined the term “electronic superhighway” in 1974, grasping the essence of global communications and seeing the possibilities of technologies that were barely born. He usually did this while managing to be both palatable and subversive. In recent years, Mr. Paik’s enormous American flags, made from dozens of sleek monitors whose synchronized patterns mixed everything from pinups to apple pie at high, almost subliminal velocity, could be found in museums and corporate lobbies.
Mr. Paik was affiliated in the 1960’s with the anti-art movement Fluxus, and also deserves to be seen as an aesthetic innovator on a par with the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage. Yet in many ways he was simply the most Pop of the Pop artists. His work borrowed directly from the culture at large, reworked its most pervasive medium and gave back something that was both familiar and otherworldly.
He was a shy yet fearless man who combined manic productivity and incessant tinkering with Zen-like equanimity. A lifelong Buddhist, Mr. Paik never smoked or drank and also never drove a car. He always seemed amused by himself and his surroundings, which could be overwhelming: a writer once compared his New York studio to a television repair shop three months behind schedule.
Mr. Paik is survived by his wife, the video artist Shigeko Kubota.
Mr. Paik got to television by way of avant-garde music. He was born in 1932 in Seoul, Korea, into a wealthy manufacturing family. Growing up, he studied classical piano and musical composition and was drawn to 20th-century music; he once said it took him three years to find an Arnold Schoenberg record in Korea. In 1949, with the Korean War threatening, the family fled to Hong Kong, and then settled in Tokyo. Mr. Paik attended the University of Tokyo, earning a degree in aesthetics and the history of music in 1956 with a thesis on Schoenberg’s work.
He then studied music at the University of Munich and the Academy of Music in Freiburg and threw himself into the avant-garde music scene swirling around Cologne. He also met John Cage, whose emphasis on chance and randomness dovetailed with Mr. Paik’s sensibility.
Over the next few years, Mr. Paik arrived at an early version of performance art, combining cryptic musical elements — usually spliced audiotapes of music, screams, radio news and sound effects — with startling events. In an unusually Oedipal act during a 1960 performance in Cologne, Mr. Paik jumped from the stage and cut off Cage’s necktie, an event that prompted George Maciunas, a founder of Fluxus, to invite Mr. Paik to join the movement. At the 1962 Fluxus International Festival for Very New Music in Wiesbaden, Germany, Mr. Paik performed “Zen for Head,” which involved dipping his head, hair and hands in a mixture of ink and tomato juice and dragging them over a scroll-like sheet of paper to create a dark, jagged streak.
In 1963, seeking a visual equivalent for electronic music and inspired by Cage’s performances on prepared pianos, Mr. Paik bought 13 used television sets in Cologne and reworked them until their screens jumped with strong optical patterns. In 1963, he exhibited the first art known to involve television sets at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany.
In 1965 he made his New York debut at the New School for Social Research: Charlotte Moorman, a cellist who became his longtime collaborator, played his “Cello Sonata No. 1 for Adults Only,” performing bared to the waist. A similar work performed in 1967 at the Filmmakers Cinematheque in Manhattan resulted in the brief arrest of Ms. Moorman and Mr. Paik. Mr. Paik retaliated with his iconic “TV Bra for Living Sculpture,” two tiny television screens that covered Ms. Moorman’s breasts.
Mr. Paik bought one of the first portable video cameras on the market, in 1965, and the same year he exhibited the first installation involving a video recorder, at the Galeria Bonino in New York. Although he continued to perform, his interests shifted increasingly to the sculptural, technological and environmental possibilities of video.
In 1969, Mr. Paik started showing pieces using multiple monitors. He created bulky wood robotlike figures using old monitors and retrofitted consoles, and constructed archways, spirals and towers, including one 60-feet tall that used 1,003 monitors. By the 1980’s he was working with lasers, mixing colors and forms in space, without the silvery cathode-ray screen.
For his 2000 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, Mr. Paik arranged monitors faceup on the rotunda’s floor, creating a pondlike effect of light and images. Overhead, one of the artist’s most opulent laser pieces cascaded from the dome in lightninglike zigzags — an apt metaphor for a career that never stopped surging forward.