Paik Characteristics

Paik Characteristics

"Since the sixties, he has seemed to make the world of television and video particularly his own," said Thomas Kellein of Nam June Paik (27). This isn't far from the truth, for his broad array of work spans across several disciplines, from musical composition to his most recent concentrations on satellite art. Paik's varied interests in experimenting with such disciplines has helped make his art the first of its kind, paving the way for artists after him.

Most of Paik's works revolve around television sets. He began working with this medium officially in 1963, when he created his Exposition of Music "which was the first television exhibition in the history of art" (31). Many of his works involve placing the sets in various positions to achieve a certain shape. He then shows appropriate videos or live shots on the screens. One of his works is titled TV Cello which is composed of three TVs made into a cello that really plays music, with the monitors displaying a live view of the cello.

In the late 60's, Paik "laid the foundations for his three-dimensional video oeuvre: individually altered single objects, installations with live camera or microphone, and installations with numerous monitors" (Edith Decker 67).

But Paik goes further than using the object itself, exploring and manipulating the inner circuitry of the sets as well. As Edith Decker describes, "Using circuit diagrams and handbooks, he familiarized himself with the inner life of the sets, intending to interfere with the order he found there" (67).

The idea of audience involvement in various artistic exhibitions was one Paik chose to experiment with. His America piece, was a map of the US., with monitors behind each state showing various videos representative of the state they were in. When on exhibit in New York, the monitors representing New York showed live shots of spectators watching the art piece. "As usual with Mr. Paik's works, all the television sets are blazing away, creating a visual cacophony that could be taken as a metaphor for a nation united by electronics" (Hagen 18).

This is appropriate art for our time, because it makes a statement about society today. We are living in a video world, and Paik's art, which we can also be a part of, is quite parallel with reality. Decker concludes, "Experimental artists like Paik certainly managed to elicit new functions from the technology that had not been anticipated by the equipment itself" (67).


--Candiann Roswell
October 11, 1995

Nam June Paik