Nam June Paik Nostalgia: Inventor of Video Art in Retrospect
SEOUL, KOREA — A series of special exhibitions shedding new light on the late Nam June Paik (Paik Nam June, 1932-2006) are opening this month, marking the 80th anniversary of the birth of one of the art world’s most influential thinkers and visionaries to date. Here are the two exhibitions that explore the artist’s prescient interpretation of the relationship between humans, machines, nature, and art.
Nam June Paik Art Center unveils “Nostalgia Is An Extended Feedback”
Nam June Paik, perhaps Korea’s best-known artist worldwide, led an unconventional life exploiting “boundary regions between and across various existing sciences.”
Starting on July 20, the birthday of the inventor of video art, the Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province) will host a well-prepared retrospective called “Nostalgia Is An Extended Feedback,” along with a number of commemorative events throughout the year.
Paik believed that nostalgia was not a “mere yearning for the past,” but rather an “act of ruminating on dreams and passions for the future” that could bring out a self-awakening as great as or even far greater than feedback from other people.
Borrowed from a phrase in Paik’s essay written in 1992, the title of the exhibition suggests going beyond a conventional survey of the art pioneer.
“Unfolding ‘the future of the past’ that Paik envisioned, we hope this exhibition will become a convivial feast of science, technology, philosophy, arts, and culture all together,” said Park Manu, Director of Nam June Paik Art Center.
Replete with nostalgia for the artist’s philosophy and vision, the exhibition offers a selective overview of his cybernetic constellation, inviting viewers to indulge in nostalgia for Paik, while amplifying the feedback from yesterday into “feedforward” for tomorrow.
The exhibition begins by displaying the artist’s way of thinking, his vision, and foresight, stressing intersections and interactions in relation to how he transformed technological development into subjective experience and fascinating art.
The exhibition will showcase a number of “Homo Cyberniticus,” the man-machine hybrids with which Paik portrayed a variety of historical figures -- including Genghis Khan and Marco Polo -- that garnered him the prestigious Gold Lion Award from the Venice Biennale in 1993. Also included is a selection of artwork by artists with whom Paik shaped an inspiring discourse around technology and creativity, such as Bill Viola, Antoni Muntadas, and Mary Bauermeister.
A thorough investigation of his art practices with a focus on Paik’s vision organized under several themes, the exhibition spotlights the reminiscence and veneration of his work, putting the past, present, and future together in a “free-floating way,” at Nam June Paik Art Center, dubbed the “house where Nam June Paik lives on.”
In tracing the complex journey through Paik’s works, the traditional confrontation between technology and creativity cannot be found. Rather, his process of artistic creation rigorously led to a harmonious ensemble between the organic and the mechanical, using art as a medium to reconcile the humanization of technology.
To coincide with the exhibition opening, a special performance called “Nam June Paik’s Friends” will take place on July 20, featuring Fluxus artist Takehisa Kosugi and master of the gayageum Hwang Byung-ki.
The museum has also prepared a range of educational programs for children such as Robot Opera sessions and a special lecture series for general audiences, alongside an international academic symposium slated for October 12.
As part of the museum’s commemoration, Seoul Square’s Media Canvas facing Seoul Station will transform itself into a platform for a “video concert” held in memory of the venerated artist’s legacy. Starting July 20, Paik’s works including “Hand and Face” (1961), “Video Synthesizer” (1970), and “Merce by Merce” (1975-76) will be screened daily at 8 p.m. for a month. The museum expects that the video concerts held every night at one of the most frequented areas of the bustling capital city would allow the public to become more acutely aware of the artist and his art.
The exhibition runs through January 20, next year. Admission is 4,000 won for adults and 2,000 for students. The museum is closed on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. For more information, visit the official website at: www.njpartcenter.kr
Seoul Olympic Museum of Art recollects an anthology of Nam June Paik Spectrum
Another Nam June Paik retrospective held in celebration of the 80th birthday of the Korean-born artist is also currently on view at the Seoul Olympic Museum of Art (SOMA), situated on the grounds of Olympic Park in eastern Seoul. The exhibition running inside the veritable art shelter of Seoul brings together an array of Paik’s enthralling oeuvre, creating an archive of man’s ardent attempt to merge art and technology and change perceptions of reality in the technology-driven culture.
In conjunction with the museum-wide summer exhibition, SOMA refurbished a new permanent exhibition hall named the Nam June Paik Video Art Hall, dedicated to showcasing the museum’s collections of Paik that encompass laser video sculptures and installations, alongside over 170 concept drawings and prints.
The undoubted highlight of SOMA’s retrospective is the “Olympic Laser Water Screen,” Paik’s site-specific laser installation created in 2001. The colorful celebrations of laser projected onto a water screen made of fountains in the moat of Mongchon Toseong were revived in commemoration of the anniversary, after operations stopped four years after the creation.
Nam June Paik Spectrum continues until September 16. Admission is 3,000 won for adults, 2,000 won for youths, and 1,000 won for children. Visitors to Olympic Park are invited to enjoy Paik’s site-specific laser display free of charge. The 40-minute show starts at 8:30 p.m. in July, 8 p.m. in August, and 7:30 p.m. in September. The museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit the official website at: www.somamuseum.org