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00707012
2011.2
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KOREAN

'‘Nam June Paik’ Retrospective at Tate Liverpool in Britain A Tribute to the Innovative Spirit of Video Art Pioneer

In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the death of Paik Nam-june, the world-renowned Korean-born contemporary artist, a retrospective exhibition is under way in the U.K. and Germany. Jointly organized by Tate Liverpool of Britain and Museum Kunst Palast, of Dusseldorf, Germany, the retrospective highlights Paik's diverse talents as an avant-garde musician, performing artist, and innovative creator of video and media art.

Revolutionary Works

Paik Nam-june is such a well-known artist that he requires no introduction in Korea, where he was born, or in Germany and the United States, where he was most active throught his career. However, Paik remains little known among the British people and is recognized by only those within artistic circles. This is because, except for a solo exhibition held at Hayward Gallery in 1988, there have been few occasions for British art lovers to come into contact with the world of his art.
However, now that Tate Liverpool, a representative British art gallery with an international reputation, is presenting a major retrospective of Paik’s works, chances are high that Paik will be properly appreciated by a larger number of art lovers in the U.K.
Known as the largest retrospective since Paik's death in 2006, this exhibition is being presented simultaneously at two venues: Tate Liverpool and the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT). The dual-venue event will provide an opportunity for viewers to examine how Paik’s novel approach to art and technology gave birth to the media art forms of today, and how his avant-garde spirit, which integrated music with performance art, was combined with modern technology to initiate an artistic revolution.

Pioneer of Media Art The display at Tate Liverpool, which accounts for the lion’s share of this exhibition, features the major works that Paik created from the late 1950s to the 1990s, many of them being shown to the public for the first time in Britain. The works on display vividly express the rich diversity of his art world, ranging from his early musical performances and involvement with the Fluxus movement, to TV works, robot sculptures, and large-scale video installations.

Works such as Prepared Piano (1962-63) and Record Shishi Kebap (Random Access) (1963-79) reflect the artist’s interest in avant-garde music, while Magnet TV (1965) and One Candle (1989) demonstrate his varied approach to electronic experimentation. There is also a section that features Paik’s joint performances with cellist Charlotte Moorman and artist Joseph Beuys. Scenes of their performances are supplemented with letters, postcards, and posters.
At a time when the thought of using a TV set as an artistic medium was entirely alien, Paik discovered the fact that TV sets, aside from brushes, can also create shapes and colors. TV Buddha, Video Fish, and TV Garden are prime results of this inspiration. He also agonized over ways to create and enjoy art on a broadened realm. Worthy of his reputation as an artist equipped with wide-ranging and profound knowledge of Zen Buddhism, cybernetic theory, and mass media, Paik developed a non-hierarchical and all-inclusive perspective on artistic creativity, along with pushing the boundaries of art into the arena of constantly changing cultural and technological innovation. His intense interest in electronic and avant-garde art can be seen throughout the exhibition, enabling viewers to realize how an unquenchable experimental spirit is the fundamental essence of his oeuvre.


Integration of Art and Technology
At the FACT international media art center, Paik’s later work, Laser Cone (2001) can be viewed. Being displayed for the first time in Britain, the work is a masterpiece that represents his “post-video” period. Laser Cone, which emphasizes spirituality while introducing advanced technology, reflects his artistic insight that refuses to give up on a humanistic perspective of technology. The exhibition at FACT also suggests how Paik’s influence will endure into the future through video works and satellite projects, such as Global Groove (1973), Good Morning Mr. Orwell (1984), and Bye Bye Kipling (1986).

The democratic and idealistic principles of Paik, who pursued two-way, rather than unilateral, communication, and the openness of his work that encourages the participation of viewers, are especially evident in his satellite projects; Paik dreamed of peaceful and harmonious relations among different cultures and peoples.
Paik Nam-june, who had predicted early on the advent of a “super highway” for electronic information, opened up an arena of music videos that is being carried on by the MTV generation, and created a forerunner of YouTube. He was not only an artist but also a prophet who looked ahead into the future.

Lee Sook-kyung Curator, Tate Liverpool, U.K.

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