Nam June Paik
American video art pioneer



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Nam June Paik
American video art pioneer
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More about Nam June Paik

ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

Considered to be the pioneer of video art, Nam June Paik had an unstable childhood. Forced to flee Korea with his family as a kid due to the Korean War, he moved to Hong Kong, Tokyo and eventually Germany before ending up as an artist in the United States. Maybe it was this early introduction to travel and a variety of cultures that spurned his interest in technology and communications.  After all, he’s credited with inventing the term “electronic super highway.”

Paik was trained as a classical pianist, but in the 1960s he met all these crazy artists like John Cage and Joseph Boueys and started to get into weird sound installations with TVs. Or one time he started to play the piano during a performance only to jump off stage and attack his artist buddies with scissors and shampoo.  Don’t ask me to interpret that one, please.

Once technology started to take off though, Paik became interested in recording devices and the ways in which media is disseminated. I think his success is largely due to the way he anticipated the effects of the internet and the huge changes it brought, saying once that, “Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence.”  And look at us now, Snapchatting and Facetiming and doing anything to avoid talking to a human on the phone.  Seems like Paik got it right. 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik (Korean: 백남준; July 20, 1932 – January 29, 2006) was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the founder of video art. He is credited with the first use (1974) of the term "electronic super highway" to describe the future of telecommunications.

Early life

Born in Seoul in 1932, the youngest of five siblings, Paik had two older brothers and two older sisters. His father (who in 2002 was revealed to be a Chinilpa, or a Korean who collaborated with the Japanese during the latter's occupation of Korea) owned a major textile manufacturing firm. As he was growing up, he was trained as a classical pianist. In 1950, during the Korean War, Paik and his family fled from their home in Korea, first fleeing to Hong Kong, but later moving to Japan. Paik graduated with a BA in aesthetics from the University of Tokyo in 1956, where he wrote a thesis on the composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Paik then moved to West Germany to study music history with composer Thrasybulos Georgiades at Munich University. While studying in Germany, Paik met the composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage and the conceptual artists Sharon Grace as well as George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell and was from 1962 on, a member of the experimental art movement Fluxus.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Nam June Paik.