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1995 Nam June Paik Born: Seoul, Korea 1932 Died: Miami Beach, Florida 2006 eight-channel video installation with custom electronics; color, sound approx. 132 x 396 x 48 in. (335.3 x 1005.8 x 121.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, Nelson C. White, and the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 1998.86 Smithsonian American Art Museum
3rd Floor, North Wing

Gallery Label

Megatron Matrix is roughly the size of a billboard and holds 215 monitors. The video—augmented by a loop of unrelated soundbites—mixes images from the Seoul Olympics with Korean folk rituals and modern dance. Smaller clips play simultaneously on multiple monitors, while larger, animated images flow across the boundaries between screens, suggesting a world without borders in the electronic age.

Paik sorted the monitors into two distinct sections. The Megatron conveys the vast reach of the media, while the smaller section, the Matrix, emphasizes the impact on each of us. In Matrix, Paik arranged the monitors so that the images seem to spiral inward around a lone screen showing two partially nude women. He may be suggesting that our bodies are our primal connection to the world, but the effect on the viewer is of being assaulted by "too much information."

In the early 1960s, Paik began incorporating televisions into his collaborative performance pieces with American dancers, musicians, and artists. Today, the fusion of pop music, commercial culture, and nationalist symbols captures Paik's story and that of millions around the world. Paik's prophetic awareness of the power of television has been borne out in our "plugged-in" age, when any kind of art or entertainment is available on our screens all the time.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


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