Remembering Nam June Paik

To celebrate the life of Nam June Paik, John G. Hanhardt, Senior Curator for Media Arts, Nam June Paik Media Arts Center, has written a remembrance of the artist on the fourth anniversary of his death.

The Nam June Paik Archive, recently acquired by American Art, is a treasure trove containing all kinds of materials that deepen our understanding of this artist who, over forty years ago, imagined a future where video and new media would become global art movements. Today, on the fourth anniversary of Nam June’s death, I want to share with you a couple of paragraphs from a document I found in the Archive that relate to communication and how information and opinion is spread. His thoughts seem particularly prescient, as we see how the Internet carries ideas, opinions, and rumors around the world in an instant.

Rumor, that mysterious bird of the spirit, was the first radio that Homosapiens invented. There are no rules that determine why some rumors travel faster than others—just as there are no laws governing the world of advertising.

Rumors constitute a second operation of the metabolism, one in which novelty is a more critical element than truth. Everything hinges, quite simply, on a small surprise.

— Nam June Paik. "High Tech/High Art in the Oriental Tradition." Center for Advanced Visual Studies, M.I.T. 1987. Copyright Nam June Paik 1981. Translated from German by Katherine Scott, 1986.