Nam June Paik
1932 - 2006 · United States
Nam June Paik was a Korean American multidisciplinary artist who became known as ‘the father of video art’. A pioneer in his field, he experimented with modern technologies, sound and robotics, utilising them to create dynamic and innovative artworks. He is credited with normalising video as a viable form of art and creating the basis for the New Media movement.
Paik was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1932, yet his family later settled in Japan after fleeing from the Korean War. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956 with a BA in Aesthetics, and went on to study Music History at Munich University. From 1962 he was a member of the Fluxus movement, and it was here that he developed a passion for combining video, sound and electronic elements in his work.
As an artist Paik aimed to humanise technology, a theme which underpins all elements of his work. He is credited with coining the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’, which is viewed as the first mention of a concept that would eventually manifest as the internet. He pursued this notion in his 1995 piece 'Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii', a large-scale, fifty-one channel video installation which presents technology as a phenomenon which is interconnected yet assembled of many individual parts. His more intimate works such as 'TV Buddha' (1974) contemplate some of the moral and philosophical issues brought up by modern technology, and question the position of religion and self-image in a contemporary society where humans often experience the world through the use of digital screens.
Following a career spanning over 50 years, Paik’s work has been internationally recognised and celebrated. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul and the Tate Modern in London.