Nam June Paik
Korea, the Republic of
Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 1983
He is considered the "father of video art" and his monumental installations can still be seen in the major museums of the world after his death in 2006. The Kunstsammlung NRW only dismantled the world-famous artist’s room-filling video installation TV-Garden in 2015 and gave away 200 palms to enthusiastic art lovers in less than half an hour.
Television attacked us all life long – now we're fighting back.
Nam June Paik, American of Korean descent, was born in Seoul in 1932, studied in Tokyo and came to Germany in the 1950s to study composition and music history in Freiburg and Munich. Over the following decades he became the star of the western art scene. In 1983, he was a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme. He spent many years teaching at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.
As a musician, Paik not least worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen, however it was his encounter with John Cage that was to prove decisive. In the 1960s, he belonged, together with Cage, Beuys and Vostell, to the Fluxus Movement. Some of his actions included smashing up violins and pianos. He caused a sensation in New York when he had a robot cross the road and let it be run over by a car.
He was already working on his first installations built of television sets in the 1960s. His media art is always visionary, often ironic and even witty. He uses the methods of television to criticise television. His motto is: "Television has attacked us all life long – now we're fighting back." And that was also the intention of the electronic collage Global Groove, which he created in 1973. It went on display in the Deutsche Guggenheim Exhibition Hall in Berlin from April to July 2004. In this large-scale installation with Video Walls made of TV screens, the viewer is confronted by a visual flood of alienated TV images and video sequences – step dancers accompanied by rock music, Pepsi commercials, drumming Navajo Indians, psychedelic eddies of colour, Richard Nixon's grotesquely distorted face and material from current affairs programmes, game shows and soap operas.
The artist came to the exhibition especially from New York, where he lived until his death. After suffering a stroke, Nam June Paik was bound to a wheelchair, but his creativity remained unbroken – he turned his artistic ideas into reality with the help of assistants. Nam June Paik died on 29 January 2006 at the age of 73.