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Nam June Paik – Innovator, Visionary, and Miami Beach Artist

Written By Erin Parish
May 28, 2024 at 1:37 PM

Installation view at The Bass Museum. Photo credit Erin Parish.

Nam June Paik’s (b. 1932, Seoul; d. 2006, Miami Beach) “The Miami Years” is at the Bass Museum of Art through August 11. It contains important video sculptures, video wall art, as well as paintings. You will see sketches for a public works commission which had been installed in the Miami International Airport as well as its supplemental letters and local press to expand the understanding his impact here. The exhibition is about Paik’s connection to Miami and Miami Beach.

Bass Museum entrance to the Nam June Paik exhibition celebrating “The Miami Years”. Photo credit Erin Parish.

His Bakelight Robot, 2002, and it’s vintage radios recalls the area’s prevalence of Art Deco. Video montages embedded in these works are frenetic yet familiar. He blends the memory-ridden objects of the past with the contemporary medium of video. Now our brains can read these thousands of images: traffic, beachgoers, palm trees and flamingos, and molecules. The human brain has accustomed itself to understanding images increasingly rapidly. At the time of their making, the pace was daunting and perhaps ungraspable. This was his form of “electronic painting.” Through his use of distorted, hyper colored videos, which had been a common annoyance with television, Paik created frenetic poetry.

Bakelight Robot, 2002 by Nam Paik June at Bass Museum. Photo credit Erin Parish.

His stratus as a visionary is evidenced by his 1974 prediction of the internet. He coined the term “Electronic Super Highway” where people would hold conferences via color (!) video, regardless of location. He imagined watching TV on a mixed-media telephone which used 1001 applications for communication and entertainment. With these phones and the applications everyone would be an artist. Not an absurdity to us now as the term gets redefined and tools freely accessible online. He dreamt, through his Global Groove project, of the ability to access any TV station, worldwide. These fantastical ideas seemed too incredible. He predicted the climate crisis in 1980, which had seemed centuries away.

Known as “The Father of Video Art,” perhaps soon changed to “The Grandfather of Video Art,” he is regarded as the first artist to use television and video, beginning in 1963. As a visionary, he saw the possibility to unite the world in joining art and technology across continents and cultures.

Nam Paik June created revolutionary video installations like this as early as the 1960’s. Photo credit Erin Parish.

Ground-breaking video artists indebted to Paik include Pippilotti Rist, Bill Viola, Tony Oursler, Bruce Nauman and Joan Jonas. Artists influenced by this second-generation are very well regarded in this previously inaccessible media. Any art fair is incomplete without the inclusion of videos and the Capcut and Video Leap programs allow easy editing, once the stuff reserved for professionals. What would Instagram and Tik Tok be without Nam June Paik?

Why not check out this OG video artist who has impacted your world? To see his exhibition at the Bass Museum gives one pause to think historically, to place this prophet of connectivity in time. As the pioneer of what is now called time-based media, we witness his impact everywhere: large concert venues and its visuals and video mapping, the overall effect of Times Square, social media, music videos and the list continues.

If you are a resident of Miami Beach your entrance is free. As of this writing the museum is gifting residents with year-long memberships in celebration its 60-year anniversary.

WHAT: Nam June Paik, The Miami Years

WHERE: The Bass Museum, 2100 Collins, Miami Beach

WHEN: 12 p.m. 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday until 11 August

COST: $15 and $8, children 6 and under are free

INFORMATION: 305.673.7530, TheBass.org

 

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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