The artist Nam June Paik passed away yesterday at the age of 74.TV Cello: Finnish Dream. The collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, 1991.
Even though I am a quite a complete dilettante in the field of arts and as young (as well as now) I didn't show any specific interest towards art except what a newspaper-reading youngster wanting to give a impression of an intellectual would have to need to know, Nam June Paik must be the first Korean name I ever learned. Well, perhaps I also had memorized the name of the DPRK ruler thanks to the curiosity his outstanding exploits and style of rule commanded in the West.About the work in the accompanying picture
TV-cello: Finnish Dream, which belongs to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, is from 1991, but its origins are in the 1960s. Paik met the classically trained cellist Charlotte Moorman in New York in 1964, and the two set up several performances together in the following years. Sometimes Moorman played a cello made of TV monitors, and sometimes he played an ordinary cello dressed in TV bra made by Paik. Paik and Moorman had in common the intention to break the conventions of performing classical music. Paik designed TV-cello: Finnish dream for the opening of an exhibition in the Ateneum museum in 1991.
Paik Nam Jun was a Korean artist. He was recognized as one and thought of himself as one (as far as I know), but Korea is a place where his art would not have been possible, and I'm not talking about just earlier poverty and lack of resources or even politically and socially repressing authoritarianism. Did he create Korean art? I don't think so, and there's no need to do so either. We do watch TV everywhere in the world don't we.
(I also wanted to include a namjunepaikesque picture of a TV set trader in the Hwanghak-dong market now disappeared due to the opening of Cheonggyecheon, but couldn't find any, and my own shots are only on film.)Update, Feb 1, 2006Ohmynews tells
that a memorial altar (? punhyangso
) has been set up for Nam June Paik in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, next to his work Tadaiksôn
(多多益善, "the more the better") which towers in the spiral space.