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Superstar Smackdown - Nam June Paik

Monday, April 04, 2005

Superstar Smackdown Topics - Nam June Paik

Major Studio2 - Interactivity / Ji Sun Lee (Sun) 04/03/2005

Superstar Smackdown Topics


1) How does material/medium/technology choice affect distance between audience and artist/designer’s work?

“… the most intimate belonging of human being, we will demonstrate the human use of technology, and also stimulate viewers NOT for something mean but stimulate their phantasy to look for the new, imaginative and humanistic ways of using our technology." --Nam June Paik (1969)

Nam June Paik endeavors to humanize technology to express his art concept to his audience. An object which conflates the use value of technology with the exchange value of fashion, Paik saw his TV Bra as a way of humanizing the technological by forcing it into a hybrid relationship with the body as well as other artistic media such as performance.

2) How does the artist/designer’s figure in their own work, either via autobiography, form, religion, background or otherwise? Does the work have to be representational in order to give insights on reality?

The historical background of Nam June Paik affected the way he produces his art. He found interest with music when he received his first piano at age fourteen. From there he went into music and art history in University. In his classes two teachers, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen inspired him. This was the turning point of his life where he mixed and experimented with music and art. The post neo-dada (Fluxus) movement came through Germany where he studied and he joined this era of art form. Fluxus is a concert based style, where different elements are used, including sound, objects, and objects that produce sound. He then found interest in new technology when he was in Japan. By studying and experimenting with technology, he used it as another ingredient in his art. The way technology has advanced in the world and the issues that arise from the technology inspire him to create most of his work.

3) Is the work site specific? If not, why? What is the function of the work? What role does it play?

Nam June Paik (pronounced pake) is known mostly as a pioneer in the field of video art in the 1960's, a new medium at that time. Since then, many younger artists have worked with video, including Bill Viola and Tony Oursler. Trained in music, Paik became interested in electronic music in Germany in the 1950's, as well as working with multiple media, including visual art. As a child he was fascinated first with the then new medium of radio, and with the medium of television that followed it. Combining his art and music interests with his interest in technology, he first produced video sculptures, installations and performances. He has since explored other technologies, such as sound, computers and lasers.

4) What is the relationship to time in the work of your superstar? Timeless, ephemeral, ‘contemporary’, etc?

Paik’s understanding of the functioning of television and his ability to alter its properties enabled him to produce compelling, non-narrative segments of video. His extensive knowledge of other time-based art forms put him in a unique position to develop the artistic use of video. Commenting on how his particular training assisted his understanding of the opportunities presented by video, Paik observed, “I think I understand time better than the video artist who came from painting-sculpture. Music is the manipulation of time. All music forms have different structures and buildup. As painters understand abstract space, I understand abstract time.”

The collection of eighteen televisions is called "TV Clock". Paik used the eighteen television sets to show the hours of the day. Each television has hands that show the division of the clock face into twelve daytime hours and twelve nighttime hours. Paik's message is the fact of measuring time with a static measurement tool. The ability to measure time is a great accomplishment because time is a natural phenomenon. By using the televisions to show time, it shows the worlds changing ways of measuring this phenomenon.

5) How does the artist/designer communicate with their audience? Is their work more opaque or transparent? More interactive, passive or assertive? References to nature, culture, metaphor, etc?

His works always consider to participate and understanding audience. In Participation TV, he induced audience to participate his performance to stimulate communication with audience.

In many his works, he always shows the consistent attitude to practice humanized art which consider audience’s understanding and respect the privilege of observers.

6) Do artists/designers have a social responsibility because they act in public? Can these works change society or at least have an influence on it? How?

Various real-time interactive communication projects using broadcasting satellites were produced based on his media concept. "Good morning, Mr. Orwell," the first of such projects, was broadcasted in 1984. In this project, Mr. Paik demonstrated the possibility of using media as a new communication means, in contrast with the prospect of George Orwell, who depicted media-controlled future society in his novel "1984."

In 1986, Mr. Paik produced another TV project that linked New York, Tokyo and Seoul. This program, titled "Bye Bye Kipling," was his reply to Kipling, who wrote in his work that the East and West could never understand each other. In this program, Mr. Paik refuted the Eastern view of "incompatible West" and the Western view of "incomprehensible East," and attempted to build a global communication network. His project created a sensation. Mr. Paik focused on a computer's most important function as a means of communication,before even scientists could properly handle this strategic role of a computer. He attempted to materialize McLuhan's concept of environmental art by means of the various functions of computers, greatly affecting the world of modern art, as well as traditional philosophy and sociology, which had been unable to cope with the computer age. In other words, he prepared a perfect model of the internet.

Mr. Paik's lifelong ambitions include building global communication networks that involve people worldwide, and seeking mutual understanding among peoples of different cultures. Underlying his pursuit of these themes are his difficult time under severe political situations in his home country, Korea, and his identity as an Asian. Through his efforts in pursuit of his ambitions, he has contributed to the diversification of artistic forms, and helped restore the fundamental function of art, thereby imparting new philosophical objectives to science and technology.


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