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Video artist Paik Nam-june remembered 15 years later

By Park Yuna

Published : Jan. 31, 2021 - 17:47

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Paik Nam-june demonstrates how to operate “Robot K-456” in 1982. (Nam June Paik Art Center) Paik Nam-june demonstrates how to operate “Robot K-456” in 1982. (Nam June Paik Art Center)

The Nam June Paik Art Center on Friday hosted a conversation with Lev Manovich, a professor at City University of New York and the leading theorist of digital culture and media art, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of video art pioneer Paik Nam-june’s death.

The conversation took place at the Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, and was led by the director of the art center, Kim Seong-eun. The talk, which will be uploaded online in early February, was livestreamed via the art center’s YouTube channel.

Manovich is known for publishing numerous articles and journals about the convergence of art and technology.

He stressed that Paik’s legacy in the art world should be appreciated with a broader perspective instead of by simply focusing on his works of art themselves.

“I think it is a mistake to only look at what he did as opposed to what he wanted to do,” the theorist said during the talk. 

Born in Korea in 1932, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, Paik studied in Japan and Germany, where he fell into avant-garde art, influenced by American composer John Cage. Paik also became involved with the Fluxus art movement, an experimental movement that aimed to break the mold of traditional art. He was fascinated by new technologies and the TV set, which was still a relatively rare electronic appliance in the early 1960s. He became globally known as the founder of video art. 

He died of a stroke in January 2006 in Florida, at the age of 73.

 
The Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) The Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)


The Nam June Paik Art Center, founded in 2002, is the only art center in the world dedicated to Paik. The art center is home to some 119 works by Paik, including masterpieces “TV Garden,” “TV Fish” and “The Rehabilitation of Genghis-Khan.” It also houses 2,285 hours of video footage by Paik stored on the VHS tapes that Paik used.

“Nam June Paik Art Center had to shut down for almost half a year after the pandemic broke out, but we did our best to conduct our mission as the museum dedicated to the artist by hosting exhibitions, academic conferences and educational programs,” Director Kim said. “The spirit of the artist led us to stubbornly navigate the direction that we should pursue. The pandemic motivated us to think about the artist’s art more than ever before.”

The annual memorial ceremony for Paik at the temple Bongeunsa in southern Seoul, where the artist’s remains are enshrined, was livestreamed at 11 a.m. Friday. The memorial ceremony has been held there since 2007. The ceremony was livestreamed for the first time through Bongeunsa’s YouTube channel, as only a limited number of people could participate in the ceremony due to the pandemic.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)