About the Artwork: Zoom it here!

What makes the place you live unique? What role has your state played in the history of the United States? What events or contributions make it stand out? Explore a photograph of our new video installation Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii.


Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Nam June Paik, 1995, 49-channel closed circuit video installation, neon, steel and electronic components, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2002.23

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To design this monumental map of the United States, the artist Nam June Paik arranged 336 televisions on a scaffold and overlaid it with almost 600 feet of neon. Fifty DVD players send multimedia simultaneously to screens populating each state.

When Nam June Paik came to the United States in 1964, the interstate highway system was only nine years old, and superhighways offered everyone the freedom to "see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet." Walking along the entire length of this installation suggests the enormous scale of the nation that confronted the young Korean artist when he arrived. Neon outlines the monitors, recalling the multicolored maps and glowing enticements of motels and restaurants that beckoned Americans to the open road. The different colors remind us that individual states still have distinct identities and cultures, even in today's information age.

Paik augmented the flashing images "seen as though from a passing car" with audio clips from The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma, and other screen gems, suggesting that our picture of America has been influenced by film and television. Today, the Internet and twenty-four-hour broadcasting tend to homogenize the customs and accents of what was once a more diverse nation. Paik was the first to use the phrase "electronic superhighway," and this installation proposes that electronic media provide us with the images and adventure that we used to leave home to discover. But Electronic Superhighway is real. It is an enormous physical object that occupies a middle ground between the virtual reality of the media and the sprawling country beyond our doors.