Exhibition review-Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik was born in 1932, South Korea, and worked with advanced technology of the time. His exhibition at the Tate Modern explores the combination of nature and technology, television and projector are the most common media that he used. During the interview with Davis (as cited in Ammer, 2009), Paik mentioned that “My TVs are more the artist than I am.”

Sistine Chapel (1993) by Nam June Paik

The exhibition includes different spaces and variety of works. The installation TV Garden (1974-77) consists of green plants and televisions together, creating a TV-jungle. According to the exhibition text (2019), “Technology is not conflict with nature but an extension of the human realm.” This idea really effected me because nowadays the most common view is technology usually cause damage to the nature environment. But in fact, the advanced technology are focused on eco-friendly, they were designed to cause minimum damage to the environment.

TV Garden (1974-77) by Nam June Paik

The sculpture TV-Buddha (1974) sits peacefully, look at the reflection of itself in the TV screen opposite. Media Art Net (2005) describes it as “The subsequent addition of a video camera meant the Buddha now watched his videotaped image on the screen opposite.”, the eastern god and western technology, the past and the future, they are all gazing at each other.

TV-Buddha (1974) by Nam June Paik

Within Klavier Intégral (1958-1963), Nam June Paik used iron gauze, clocks, telephone, bra, lamps to make the piano look a mess. “The piano is a taboo, it must be destroyed.” Said the artist. Museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien (n.d.) claimed that the expression of this work was clear: bourgeois music industry should be rejected.

Klavier Intégral (1958-1963) by Nam June Paik

Apart from his works about the connection between nature and technology, Nam June Paik also created several impressive interactive installations. For example, in his work Random Access (1963), dozens of sound tracks were fixed on the wall, the audience can use a metal pen which connected to a sound recorder to play those lines randomly, create an unique piece of sound belongs to themselves. In this way Paik connect the audience and the installation successfully, either the young or the elderly can have fun creating their own piece of music.

Random Access (1963) by Nam June Paik

Another installation Three Camera Participation/Participation TV (1969, 2001) is similar to the work Your Uncertain Shadow (2010) by Olafur Eliasson, both of them used cameras and projectors, the shadows of audiences were separated into different colours. However, the colours of Three Camera Participation/Participation TV are limited to red yellow and blue, by contrast, Your Uncertain Shadow has five colours. But it is still very impressive that Nam June Paik created such advanced work that was ahead of his time.

Three Camera Participation/Participation TV (1969, 2001) by Nam June Paik

Hanhardt and Ippolito (2000) explains that, to Nam June Paik, TV is not only a way of performance, but also a tool to help exploring and experimenting. He devoted all his life to work with televisions. Nam June Paik is a prophet and pioneer of TV and video range, the society and the world of design nowadays may not have the achievement without his contribution. He also believed that one day in the future, everyone would own a TV channel, now the YouTube in modern society is just like his prediction. Hudson (2012) believes that Nam June Paik is the spiritual father of YouTube and he is the reason Gangnam Style is such a success among internet.

In one of the rooms, lots of projectors has been used to show a room of living animals, plants, the ocean, human and technology. The idea that all of them should be harmonious with each other is really thought-provoking. It reminds of nowadays the killing and using of animals are not necessary, some did it just for fur or for fun, some experimentations on animals such as cosmetics are cruel and innocent. Moreover, Industries would take organs like bear gall, fin of sharks or horn from rhinoceros and cook them dinner or make “medicines” that are actually useless, the rest part of body would be abandoned and those animals would die in pain. In order to achieve the harmony between human and nature, these actions should be stopped.


Ammer, M. (2009) Nam June Paik: exposition of music : electronic television : revisited. 1st ed. Vienna: museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien, p.74.

Hanhardt, J. and Ippolito, J. (2000) The worlds of Nam June Paik. New York: Guggenheim Museum, p.108.

Media Art Net (2005) Paik, Nam June: TV-Buddha. [online] Media Art Net. Available at: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/tv-buddha/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].

Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (n.d.) Klavier Intégral. [online] Mumok.at. Available at: https://www.mumok.at/en/klavier-integral [Accessed 22 Jan. 2020].

The Telegraph (2012) Nam June Paik: The man who inspired ‘Gangnam Style’. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/9609387/Nam-June-Paik-The-man-who-inspired-Gangnam-Style.html. [Accessed 6 February 2020].

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