artist: nam june paik

Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was a Korean-American artist who loved television. Er … loved using televisions. In his artwork. His electronic art. Media art. Video. Yeah. Cool stuff. I had never heard about him before and granted I’m not well-versed in contemporary art or media art, but apparently he was pretty revolutionary and influential. As much as I like art, I’m not actually in the art field – does that excuse my ignorance?

This piece is “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” (1995) and wow, it will not be ignored. It’s one of his most famous pieces and it’s not hard to understand why. With each state outlined in bright glaring neon and filled with televisions, it’s a very eye-catching/eye-consuming piece. It’s obviously a critique on American culture’s obsession with the attention-grabbing, but it’s darn near impossible to not stand in front of it mouth agape and just stare at the moving screens for a good, long while. Also in the museum (the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC) was another piece by Paik called “Megatron/Matrix” (1995), but after spending a few minutes in that room, I felt like my eyes were going to explode.

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