Paik , Nam June ( 1932 - 2006 )

1932 - geboren am 20. Juli, als Sohn eines Textil- und Stahlfabrikanten in Seoul, Korea.

1950 flieht die Familie nach Tokio wegen des Koreakrieges.

1952-1956 studiert Paik westliche Ästhetik, Musik- und Kunstwissenschaft an der Universität Tokio. Abschlußarbeit über den Komponisten Arnold Schönberg.

1956 reist nach Deutschland

1956-1958 Studium der Musikgeschichte an der Universität München und Komposition an der Freiburger Musikhochschule. 1958 Begegnung mit dem amerikanischen Komponisten John Cage (1912-1992) in Darmstadt

1958-1963 Paik arbeitet mit Karlheinz Stockhausen im WDR-Studio für Elektronische Musik.

1959 Paik entwickelt Aktionsmusik:Geräusche,Stille und zufällige Töne, das Zertrümmern von Instrumenten als Musik.

1962 Teilnahme an "Fluxus. Internationale Festspiele neuester Musik" in Wiesbaden. Erste Versuche mit TV-Geräten. Ziel, elektronische Musik über das visuelle Medium Fernsehen sichtbar zu machen.

1963 Galerie Parnass,Wuppertal: "Exposition of music - electronic television".( Erste Einzelausstellung mit präpariertem Klavier, Klangobjekte 12 manipulierte Fernseher, die dem Besucher ermöglichen selbst auf das Werk gestaltend einzuwirken. Das Fernsehen wird nun Paiks bevorzugtes Medium.

1969/70 Paik entwickelt mit Freunden den Video-Synthesizer

seit 1979 Professor an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

1. Januar 1984 . Als Auftakt des Orwell-Jahres organisiert Paik die Satellitenübertragung "Good Morning, Mr. Orwell". Künstler und Musiker nehmen von Paris und New York aus an der Show teil: Joseph Beuys, Ben Vautier, Yves Montand, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Charlotte Moorman u.a.

2006 , Febr. Paik stirbt.




Nam June Paik was born in Seoul, Korea into an upper-middle-class family. As a child, he was fascinated by the radio, which he listened to for hours, often asking, "Why do people hide in the box?"1 During the Korean War his family moved frequently, finally settling in Tokyo. Interested in both music and the visual arts, Paik's parents' opposed music school, so they initiated studies with a private instructor. With the arrival of television in Japan in the early 1950s, by which time Paik was expert on the piano, he transferred his interests in electronics from radio to television. Also opposing his desire to study art in Paris, his parents finally settled on Munich, Germany. And so, after his graduation from the University of Tokyo in 1956, he continued his studies in music history at the University of Munich and the Conservatory in Freiburg.

Once in Germany, his obsession with music, art, and electronics came together. Paik once stated,

I feel inferior to painters and inferior to composers. A German who studied radar during the war told me radar waves make interesting painting, then I had idea. Why don't I move from electronic music into electronic painting with the TV. I will not compete with the big guys--Jasper Johns and John Cage. I will find something new--the moving painting with sound."2

Paik moved to New York in 1964, one year after exhibiting his first "electronic paintings"--thirteen TV sets with scrambled images--in Wuppertal, Germany. It was the first video art show anywhere. While in New York, Paik purchased one of the first Sony video cameras marketed in 1965. In the taxi on his way home, he got into a traffic jam caused by Pope Paul IV's visit to New York. Paik captured the spectacle around him with his video camera and showed the tape that same evening at the Cafe a Go Go. He handed out a leaflet at the cafe declaring: "As collage technique replaced oil paint, the cathode-ray tube will replace the canvas."3

Paik continues to work in his "new" medium. Once, at a gallery in New York that was exhibiting several of his rewired TV sets and a six-foot-tall robot, he opened the doors and aimed the metal robot for the street. The robot did not resemble a refugee from a Hollywood movie so much as it looked like a merrily twisted aluminum clothes rack, on rollers, that had recently belonged to a mental hospital. Its face was a radio speaker, its nose was a light bulb, and the eyes were toy airplane propellers. The mischievous Paik also nearly created an international incident when he tried to send this same robot through the Brandenburg Gate into East Berlin.4 Paik also collaborated with cellist Charlotte Moorman until her death in 1991, in creating performance pieces. Moorman played the cello topless, except for two-three-inch TV sets on her breasts in a performance called TV Bra unveiled in 1969 at the Corcoran Gallery. The duo were later arrested and charged with indecent exposure.

Paik does not even own a functioning TV and has exclaimed, "I don't watch TV. The information is too slow. I want to be able to fast-forward the news or program."5 Paik continues to live and work in a studio in New York jammed with TV chassis, boxes of knobs, dials, lights, and rows of television sets. A visitor may easily become frightened of electrocution trying to traverse his floor crisscrossed with coiled wires and clunky transformers. When asked what lies ahead for the artist he stated, "People talk about 'the future' being tomorrow, 'the future' is now."6


1. Paul Gardner, "Tuning in to Nam June Paik," Artnews (May 1992): 67.
2. Ibid.
3. Kellein, Nam June Paik: Video Time-Video Space (New York, NY: Abrams, 1998), 36.
4. Gardner, "Tuning in," 69.
5. Paul Gardner, "Paik Un plugged," Artnews (January 1995): 136.
6. Ibid.