Nam June PAIK (1932-2006) worked with a variety of media and is widely considered to be the first video artist and “father” of the video art genre. His keenness for music and attempt to eliminate the boundary between music and action as well as body and technology persists throughout his artistic oeuvre. An active participant in the Fluxus movement, Paik was a strong advocate for the fusion of different genres of art and the fusion of art and life that connected religions and continents on a global scale. While his initial work brought the television to the field of fine art by treating the TV as a tactile and multisensory medium and object, his work included video sculptures, installations, performances, TV production, real time satellite broadcasts, videotapes. Oftentimes humorous yet deeply contemplative in nature, Paik’s dialogue revolved around issues of cosmological importance to the façade of everyday reality. The artist’s endeavored to incorporate media as the new medium for art and has consistently challenged the way we perceive time and space. His groundbreaking practice continues to inspire artists in a wide array of genres.
Born in to a wealthy family, Paik moved to Hong Kong and then Japan during the tumult of the Korean War. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956 before moving to Germany to continue his studies in music. Trained as a classical pianist, he came into contact with protagonists of the counterculture and avant-garde movements of the 1960s. In Germany he met and befriended contemporaries such as John Cage and George Maciunas resulting in his participation in the neo-Dada Fluxus group. He immigrated to the US in 1964 and settled in New York where he expanded his practice in the video and television media. His work that began with Japanese engineer Shuya Abe in the late 60s helped to transform the boundaries of the medium in art in essence creating a new artistic medium through the use of their video synthesizer. Paik has been the subject of many renown exhibitions and retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Documenta, the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennial. He taught at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf from 1979 to 1996. Paik died in 2006. In 2008, the Nam June Paik Art Center opened just south of Seoul.