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Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik

*  1932 Seoul
† 2006 Miami

Paik, who moved to Hongkong with his family before the Korean war and then fled to Japan, finished his studies of music, art history and philosophy at the University of Tokyo with a thesis about Arnold Schönberg in 1956. He continued his studies at the University of Munich while also studying composition under Wolfgang Fortner at the Freiburg Music Academy. He attended the International Summer Class for New Music in Darmstadt in 1957 where he met Karlheinz Stockhausen an John Cage. The disintegration of traditional musical structures as a result of including sound, silence, gestures, mimicry, chance and every-day life led to an unconditional openness which was presented together with artists an writers in an exemplary fashion at the Fluxus Festival organised in 1962 by George Maciunas in Wiesbaden. Paik demonstrated a new dimension of this openness in the TV-works he produced after 1963. At first he was concerned with the placement of TV-sets in a room, their manipulation, multiplication, and level of destruction, like, for example, 'Zen for TV' (1963). TV rooms are turned into meditation rooms. In 1964 Paik moved from Tokyo to New York where he began working together with the Cellist Charlotte Moormann - a collaboration which was to continue for many years. As one of the principle members of the Fluxus movement he organised numerous musical happenings which were instigated by John Cage during the 1960s. At the same time Paik produced his first robots and preliminary versions of video music with the electronic reproduction of images. The climax of his video art was his large Video-Environment at the documenta VI in Kassel. His video installations now increasingly take up entire rooms, floors, ceilings and walls. During the 1980s he also began his 'Family of Robot', anthropomorphic figures assembled out of TV-sets, radios etc.
Paik has been teaching at the State Art Academy in Düsseldorf since 1979. On the occasion of the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, Paik staged 'The more the better', a media tower consisting of 1003 monitors on which programmes from the TV channels of 12 countries were broadcast. Five years later the artist presented his video works in the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1998 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize.