Nam June Paik, Artist in distribution, Korea, 1932
Nam June Paik (1932, Seoul) studied classical piano as a child. During the Korean War he and his family fled to Japan. He studied music, (art) history and philosophy in Tokyo; later he moved to West Germany to study music history and musical composition. There he met John Cage in 1958, who would have a big influence on Paik's compositions. Through contacts with Wolf Vostell and Joseph Beuys, Paik then became involved in the Fluxus movement from the very beginning, where he worked together with other members like Alison Knowles, experimenting with sound and performance. He was a pioneer in using (manipulated) television sets to create installations. In 1964 he moved to New York City and began a long collaboration with avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman. Together, they created a series of controversial and notorious pieces in which they combined audio, video and performance. According to an enduring (and unverifyable) tale about the beginnings of video art, Paik shot images of the Pope during his visit to New York in 1965, with the first portable video camera that was commercially available – allegedly creating the first piece of video art in history. Later he would focus on creating spatial installations with video and sound, often criticizing America's blind obsession with television. He continued pioneering with technological media, and often developed his own electronic devices to achieve a desired effect. By using television monitors and bright moving images in a critical and artistic way, he created a counterpart for the growing commercial use of television as a mass medium. Nam June Paik’s works have been exhibited internationally at some of the world’s main art institutions, festivals and biennials, including Documenta 6 and 8, and the 1993 Venice Biennale. He also received numerous awards for his oeuvre. In 2006 Paik died in Miami, a decade after he had a stroke that left him partly paralyzed.