Artist Nam Joon Paik predicted the globalization of entertainment


The Korean wave of popular culture known as Hallyu has brought k-pop, k-drama and Korean film to all corners of the world. It’s an integral part of the globalization of entertainment, a possibility envisioned almost 50 years ago by Korean-American artist Nam Joon Paik. He predicted the internet and how it could change entertainment – imagining options like YouTube – that ultimately helped bring k-media to global audiences.

In 1974, Paik raised the possibility of an electronic highway that would not only connect the world, but foster artistic collaboration. While the first working prototype of the Internet was developed in the late 1960s, it was not until 1993 that the Web entered the public domain. Now it’s hard to imagine a world without such immediate connectivity and limitless options.

“We now live in a world of social media where the circulation and manipulation of images and sounds fit seamlessly into our daily, often nomadic lives,” said Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts at SFMOMA, which currently houses a interactive and immersive exhibition of The Work of Paik. “Our audiences can now embrace works like Paik’s with enthusiasm and wonder, precisely because we all have a different and much more intimate relationship with technology. ”

Paik was a master of recycling and reinterpreting media. His famous work, Buddha TV, is a video installation in which a statue of Buddha views his own image live on closed circuit television. Another piece, Egguf positive, uses a series of video monitors to magnify the image of an egg until it becomes unrecognizable. In Fish Video, a series of aquariums contains live fish and monitors showing video footage of other fish. In Magnetic TV, he used 17 black and white televisions, modifying the images the ensembles project with magnetic media.

TV magnet is one of his all-time classics and he’s so much more alive than anything you can imagine just by looking at his photographic depiction in catalogs and academic reviews of media art, ”said Frieling. “The electronic abstract form is not only a thing of beauty and complexity, it literally vibrates while remaining perfectly still. And of course, I like the idea that the beauty of the form contrasts sharply with the absolutely crappy case it’s presented in. You have to look at all four sides to understand that Paik liked the worn out, the rejected, the glitch, and the imperfect. From the ruins of an old television, he could evoke pure magic simply by moving a massive magnet and changing the internal magnetic field.

Paik not only used televisions as electronic props in his works, but also planned the future of global entertainment and helped launch it.

On January 1, 1984, he broadcast Hello Mr. Orwell, a program that broadcast entertainment from WNET New York, the Center Pompidou Paris and South Korea. Viewers were delighted with the innovative offer. In 1986, he created the satellite program Goodbye Kipling, including live events from Seoul, Tokyo and New York.

Although some of his early contemporaries referred to him as a “cultural terrorist,” Paik is now known as the father of contemporary video art.

“All of the music videos go back to a number of different historical precedents, but his invention of this radical, non-narrative form of musical and visual experimentation is arguably the most relevant,” said Frieling. “His first clip, Global Groove from 1973, still serves as a model for most contemporary artistic and commercial productions. And yet, he is unprecedented in his rapid bonding technique that has become his signature. ”

While Frieling is not sure how Paik might react to k-media commercial productions topping the international charts today, his art paved the way for their worldwide popularity.

“He was among the first to highlight our global connectivity in and through media and he created opportunities to overcome cultural and geographic boundaries in his art and in already existing formats,” said Frieling. “After all, he didn’t invent television entertainment. It is therefore logical that he has never promoted a national heritage, quite the contrary. He titled one of his satellite broadcasts Goodbye Kipling to counter Rudyard Kipling’s famous line that “East is East and West is West, and the two will never meet.” His argument was for a deep culture of mixing, mash-ups in the language of today, where East and West meet, an aesthetic that would also randomly mix the most diverse elements, all at the same time. supporting the creation of a gestalt, a holistic subconscious that is an effective means of reaching the senses of people beyond any national or formal tradition.

Paik was among the first to show Japanese Pepsi Cola commercials to American audiences in his early television productions – without subtitles.

“He would just assume that one would ‘get the message’ without understanding the language, because the message was really an international visual grammar of advertising in the first place.”

The exhibition at SFMOMA is Nam June Paik’s first major American presentation in over 20 years, the first on the West Coast, and the only venue for this exhibition in the United States. It runs until October 3, 2021. The exhibition emphasizes its commitment to exploring the question “Why is this music?” ”

“The constant mix of sounds, noises, electronics, words and actions was just music in his ears,” said Frieling.

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