Throwback Thursday: Nam June Paik

Today we throwback to a true innovator of video art, Nam June Paik, whose pioneering work had a major influence on the art of video and television of the twentieth century. 

In an interview, Paul Schimmel asks what the difference is between coming to video from music and the many video artists who come to video from painting-sculpture. Nam June Paik responds by explaining,

‘I think I understand time better than the video artists who came from painting-sculpture. Music is the manipulation of time. All music forms have different structures and buildup. As painters understand abstract space, I understand abstract time.’

Nam June Paik Piano MoMA

Nam June Paik’s ‘Untitled’ was created in 1993 and has since been restored at the New York Museum of Modern Art by Glenn Wharton. This two year conservation project involved repairing and replacing parts of the piano, as well as altering and upgrading the original work from video files to digital formats, with cathode-ray screens remaining a key feature of the work. 

The work consists of an upright piano, stacked with fifteen televisions playing four different video feeds. Two from the security cameras filming the piano keys and two others that show images of his mentor John Cage and Merce Cunningham across the screens.

Paik’s work revealed the flexibility of television and film as an art form and has since continued to inspire new generations of artists around the world.

 Nam June Paik

To see more about the restoration, check out the video below with Glenn Wharton:


Further reading:

Interview with Paul Schimmel – read here.