Paik, Nam June (1932–2006) By Shin, Chunghoon
Nam June Paik was a Korean-born American artist who achieved international notoriety for his destructive, neo-dada activities and visionary, esthetic experiments with electronic media. Born to a wealthy family in Seoul during Japanese colonial rule, Paik took private music lessons throughout his adolescence. After moving to Japan in 1951, he enrolled in the University of Tokyo, where he studied music, esthetics, and art history, graduating with a thesis on the composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1956. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he turned away from the university setting to associate himself with a network of progressive artists such as John Cage and the Fluxus group. While studying in Germany in the late 1950s, Paik began exploring electronic media as an art form. Yet, far from being negative or polemical, Paik’s attitude toward the televisual environment was marked by a radical openness. He explored the esthetic potential of television and video in an all-encompassing way. Paik’s exploration encompassed manipulation of television signals or scan lines, videotape production, television transmission, live satellite telecast, video sculpture, and environment. Yet Paik was by no means naïve or conformist in his approach; instead, he hijacked broadcast signals, redressing one-way communication and rechanneling energy into an alternative mode of communication.