Video Art Pioneer: Nam June Paik in 5 Artworks, Ania Kaczynska, δημοσίευση DailyArt Magazine [30/10/2022]
It’s easy to notice the widespread presence of media arts in almost all aspects of our daily lives, but that wasn’t always the case: when new media were only on the rise, artists like Nam June Paik paved the way for technology to be incorporated into the art world. Paik was the first to appropriate video as an artist’s medium and during his prolific career, he not only embraced and influenced the redefinition of television but also expanded the definition of art making.
Nam June Paik (1932-2006) is known today as the father of video art: he pioneered the use of film in his artistic language and developed an innovative practice transgressing pre-existing borders and rules. Born in Korea in 1932, he then moved to Japan, Germany, and finally the US in 1964, where he became prominent within artists’ circles in New York.
Art as we know it today wouldn’t be the same without Paik’s input in the previous century: here are 5 works by him to introduce you to Nam June Paik and his experimental, yet playful world filled with technology and moving images.
1. TV Buddha
Paik’s iconic video installation TV Buddha consists of a statue of the Buddha placed before a video monitor and a camera above it that transmits the image of the god into the screen in real-time. Since 1974 Paik has done many variations of this work that differ slightly, but they all resemble the initial setup of a statue looking at its own image displayed on a TV screen. Here, Paik makes a direct usage of Asian imagery: the theological and metaphysical construct of this installation is, whether consciously or subconsciously, Buddhist, based on the comparisons with classical Buddhist art, which Paik was familiar with.
What emerges is the juxtaposition of the modern and historical: Buddha is trapped in the closed-circuit loop of his own reflection on a TV screen, being both the viewer and the viewed. Paik explores the theme of meditation and Zen Buddhism by combining technology with tradition, but also raises questions about vanity and society’s self-absorption driven by mass culture and technology.