Nam June Paik

artist name
Nam June Paik (Seoul, Korea, 1932 – Miami, 2006)
Nam June Paik had private lessons in piano and composition (1946-50) before he left Korea with his family in 1950. He studied in Hongkong and later at Tokyo University, where he graduated in 1956 (Graduation Thesis: Arnold Schönberg).
The same year he came to Germany, where he studied musical history at the University of Munich.
In 1957 he took part in the Internationale Ferienkursen für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, where he met Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono.
In 1957-58 he studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, with Wolfgang Fortner.
At the Internationale Ferienkursen für Neue Musik (Darmstadt, 1958), he met John Cage and David Tudor. The same year he settled in Cologne, where he worked at the Studio für Elektronische Musik of the WDR.
In 1959 he performed for the first time his ‘Hommage à John Cage’ (music for magnetic tape and piano), at Jean-Pierre Wilhelm’s Galerie 22 in Düsseldorf, and in 1960 performances were given at Mary Bauermeister’s studio in Cologne. During one of the performances there, on October 6th, 1960, he cut off Cage’s necktie and shampooed Cage and Tudor as a part of his ‘Etude for Piano’.
In 1961 he founded the University of Avant-garde Hinduism, of which he was the only member, and he met George Maciunas. With Maciunas and Ben Patterson he participated in the Kleines Sommerfest at Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, in 1962. On the occasion of the manifestation Neo-Dada in der Musik (Kammerspiele, Düsseldorf, 1962), he performed his ‘One for Violin Solo’, in which a violin was raised very slowly above his head and then suddenly smashed onto a table and shattered.
Since 1962 Paik’s pieces were performed in many Fluxus (and related) manifestations.
In 1963 his first TV experiments were exhibited at Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal. The same year Willem de Ridder presented Paik’s ‘Piano for All Senses’ at his gallery Amstel 47 in Amsterdam.
That year Paik returned to Japan to learn about video. He met Shuya Abe and in 1964 Paik constructed with his help a robot – with the idea of using it later as a sort of ‘happening-instrument’.
He left for New York, where he met Charlotte Moorman and participated in her 2nd Annual New York Avant Garde Festival in 1964, presented at the Judson Hall. It was the beginning of a long co-operation between Paik and Moorman.
As a part of the Monday Night Letter series, organised by George Brecht and Robert Watts at the Cage au Go Go in New York, he gave a performance with his electronic video recorder on October 4th, 1965. It was a trial review for his first video exhibition at the Bonino Gallery the same year.
During a performance of his ‘Opera Sextronique’, at Film-Makers’ Cinemateque in 1967, Paik and performer Charlotte Moorman were arrested by the police. Of this work, in which he combined music with sex, Paik wrote: ‘Why is sex a predominant theme in art and literature prohibited ONLY in music? How long can New Music afford to be sixty years behind the times and still claim to be a serious art? The purge of sex under the excuse of being ‘serious’ exactly undermines the so-called ‘seriousness’ of music as a classical art, ranking with literature and painting. Music history needs its D.H. Lawrence, its Sigmund Freud.’ (Text on the poster/announcement for ‘Opera Sextronique’.)
In 1970 Paik and Abe constructed one of the first video-synthesizers.
In 1974 the Italian collector Francesco Conz published the edition ‘Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman’. It’s the most complex edition that was ever done with the two artists. Three large size black plastic albums in two cloth-covered slipcases were produced, containing 59 historical blw photographs and 15 photographs in colour by Peter Moore and Mario Parolin.