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IntroductionColumbus – in search of a new tomorrow
Few artists, if any, have influenced video and media art to the same extent as Nam June Paik. Alongside Les Levine, the Korean-born artist could even claim to be a founder of these art forms. As early as 1969, Paik presented a performance by cellist Charlotte Moorman, who was wearing a bra consisting of two small television receivers enclosed in Plexiglas. “TV Bra for Living Sculpture” was one of his very first video works. Fascinated by the possibilities of the new medium of video, Paik turned televisions into sculptural artworks. “Television has been terrorising us for years, now we are fighting back,” he is often quoted as saying.
Paik fled his homeland in 1950 during the Korean War, then studied in Tokyo, Munich and Freiburg before finally – following his formative engagement with the Fluxus movement – accepting a position as a Professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. His work with John Cage played a decisive role in his artistic development. In 1959, just one year after meeting the American artist and composer in Darmstadt, Paik produced an “Homage to John Cage”. He was to become world famous for his remarkable installation of 384 monitors in the Centres Georg Pompidou in Paris, which he followed with exhibitions in New York’s Guggenheim, Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle, and at documenta 8 in Kassel. Paik passed away in 2006, but his influence on media art perseveres; his playful and highly ironic approach remains unparalleled.
This untitled work is a single sheet from the international art portfolio “Columbus – in search of a new tomorrow”, which was created for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Paik worked alongside artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Christo, and Sigmar Polke for this extraordinary collection. Conceived by Michael Domberger and Dr Florian Langenscheidt, 37 artists took part in the project to protest against the destruction of nature in South America.
In the work, Paik repeats the Chinese character for “dream” to create a pattern that appears to be in continual motion. The writing seems to be rotating quickly, almost dancing. The screen print represents a coming together of the different media Paik worked with: ideas from music, dance, and video combine with a dynamic, ornamental quality. One could be forgiven for mistaking it for a screenshot from one of his video installations.
In May 1999, while Paik was still alive, the art magazine ARTnews named him as one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century alongside Picasso, Duchamp, and Rauschenberg.
1932 Born in Seoul, Korea 1952-1956 Studied Western Aesthetics, Music History, and Art History at the Universtiy of Tokyo 1956-1958 Studied Music History at the University of Munich and Composition under Wolfgang Fortner at the Freiburger Musikhochschule 1960s Member of the Neo-Dadaist group, Fluxus 1958-1963 Worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the WDR (West German Broadcasting) studio for electronic music in Cologne 1969 Developed the Video-Synthesizer with Shuya Abe 1979-1996 Professor at Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf 2006 died in Miami Beach, USAAwards
1981 Will Grohmann Prize 1989 Kurt Schwitters Prize, Hanover 1991 Goslarer Kaiserring 1992 Picasso Medal from UNESCO 1993 Golden Lion for the best national pavillion at the Venice Biennale 1998 Kyoto Prize 2001 Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize, awarded by the City of DuisburgExhibitions
2011 Ich sehe, also weiss ich (nicht), Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland 2010 Das im Entschwinden Erfasste. Videokunst im Museum Folkwang Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany Changing Channels, MUMOK Vienna, Vienna, Austria MOCA’s First Thirty Years Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA DIE KUNST IST SUPER!, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Berlin 2009 RECORD > AGAIN!–40jahrevideokunst.de – Teil, 2. ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany Nam June Paik: Music for all Senses, MUMOK Vienna, Vienna, Austria The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA Made in Munich, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA 2008 DANS LA NUIT, DES IMAGES, Grand Palais, Paris, France Notation: Kalkül und Form in den Künsten, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany Vom Funken zum Pixel, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany 2007 Art in America, Now, MOCA Shanghai, China Centre Pompidou Video Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France 2006 Berlin-Tokyo / Tokyo-Berlin Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany SUMMER OF LOVE, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany 2005 ÜBER SCHÖNHEIT, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany Flick Collection, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany 2004 Nam June Paik – Global Groove 2004, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany 2002 Räume des XX. Jahrhunderts, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany Televisions – Kunst sieht fern, Kunsthalle Vienna, Vienna, Austria 2001 Paul Kos / Nam June Paik, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA 2000 Aller Anfang ist MERZ, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany The Worlds of Nam June Paik, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA 1999 VIDEO CLUB 99, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany 1997 Die Epoche der Moderne - Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany 1996 sonambiente, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany 1995 4. Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey 1993 45. Biennale Venedig, Venice, Italy 1990 44. Biennale Venedig, Venice, Italy 1987 19. Biennale São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil 8. documenta, Kassel, Germany 1982 Erste Retrospektive im Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA 1977 6. documenta, Kassel, Germany 1971 happening & fluxus Kölnischer Kunstverein 1963 Exposition of music – electronic television, Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, Germany