Nam June Paik

1932 // Born in Seoul, as he was growing up, Nam June Paik was trained as a classical pianist In 1950, his family had to flee during the Korean War and moved to Japan. Paik graduated from the University of Tokyo. where he wrote a thesis on the composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Later Paik moved to Germany to study music history at Munich University.

From 1957 to 1961 he joined the Internationalen Sommerseminaren in Darmstadt, where he met the composer John Cage and his use of everyday sounds and noises in his music.

Nam June Paik & Bob Benamou in front of the Galerie du Génie, Paris

In 1959 he moved to Cologne, and participated in the Contré-Festivals of Mary Bauermeister. Together with Karlheinz Stockhausen, he worked from 1958  to 1963 in WDR-Studio for Elektronische Musik.

In 1960 he had his first piano performance. As he was playing Chopin, he threw himself on the piano and rushed into the audience, attacking Cage and the pianist David Tudor by cutting their clothes with scissors and pouring shampoo on their heads.

In 1961 Paik met George Maciunas and in 1962 joined the “Fluxus Festspielen Neuester Musik“ in Wiesbaden, where he played the scores “Simple“ and Zen for Head.

In 1963 he had an exhibition at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal in which he scattered televisions everywhere and used magnets to alter or distort their images.

During 1963/64 the engineers Uchida and Abe showed Paik how to interfere with the flow of electrons in color TV sets. The Abe-Paik video synthesizer has been the key element in Paiks future TV works.

In 1964 Paik moved to New York and worked with the classical cellist Charlotte Moorman. The pair made numerous performances in combinations with video, music and performances.

In 1965, Sony introduced the Portapak, the first portable video and audio recorder. Paik started to work with this medium and became an international artist of videoart.

In 1970 Paik began his serial of artworks called Closed Circuit. Objects were standing in front of a TV set and were filmed from a television camera simultaneously. These pictures were send to the TV screen – the circuit was closed.

Paik was known for making robots out of television sets, using pieces of wire and metal. He was a legendary innovator who had a profound impact on late twentieth century art through his transformation of the electronic moving image into an artist’s medium.

From 1979 to 1996 Paik was professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin.



LINCOLN 1990 – Technique mixte 240x110x90cm / CASABLANCA 1989 – Serigraphy on canvas 241x200cm / SISTER 1989 – Technique mixte 220x200x60cm