While acclaimed as the ‘father of video art’, in reality Paik was a polymath and first trained as a musician. Born in 1932 in Korea, he graduated in aesthetics and music at the University of Tokyo before studying alongside composers at the University of Munich and Freiberg’s International Music College. In 1964 he made his home in America, where he died in 2006.
It was in Germany where Paik was heavily influenced by the avant-garde composer John Cage. The pair were part of Fluxus, an international group of experimental artists, poets and musicians who initiated Paik’s career as a conceptual artist.
As video tape recorders became widely available, Paik pioneered artistic interpretations of the form and his 1965 recording of Pope Paul VI on a Sony Portapak is seen as the beginning of video art.
Paik not only embraced emerging media, he also made prescient predictions about future developments. In 1974 he wrote of a global broadband communication network materialising that could share data and videos, and he coined the phrase “Electronic Superhighway”. As a precursor to today’s YouTubers and influencers, Paik believed every citizen could have their own TV channel and his video work was spliced with small biographical details.
In 2019, a major retrospective featuring more than 200 of Paik’s works opened at London’s Tate Modern. The exhibition showcased the full sweep of his innovations immersing viewers into robotics, films, TV sets and installations. On show for the first time since the 1993 Venice Biennale was Sistine Chapel, a room-sized piece made up of thirty-four projectors displaying Paik’s summary of his own career via mesmeric collage.