The Korean wave of popular culture known as the Hallyu has introduced k-pop, k-drama and Korean film to every corner of the world. It’s an integral part of the globalization of entertainment, a possibility foreseen almost 50 years ago by Korean-American artist Nam June Paik. He predicted the Internet and how it might change entertainment—imagining options such as YouTube—that ultimately helped deliver k-media to worldwide audiences.
In 1974, Paik spoke about the possibility of an electronic superhighway that would not only connect the world, but foster artistic collaboration. While the first workable prototype for the Internet was developed in late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1993 that the web moved into the public domain. Now it is hard to imagine a world without such immediate connectivity and limitless options.
“We now live in a social media world where the circulation and manipulation of images and sounds are woven seamlessly into our daily, often nomadic lives,” said Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts at SFMOMA, which currently houses an interactive and immersive exhibit of Paik’s work. “Our public can now embrace works like those of Paik’s with excitement and wonder precisely because we all have a different and much more intimate relationship to technology.”
“Magnet TV is one of his all-time classics and it’s so much more alive than anything you can imagine just by looking at its photographic representation in catalogues and academic accounts of media art,” said Frieling. “The electronic abstract form is not only a thing of beauty and complexity, it literally vibrates while standing perfectly still. And of course I love the idea that the beauty of the form is in stark contrast to the absolute crappy case it’s presented in. You need to look at all four sides to understand that Paik loved the worn-out, the rejected, the glitch, and the imperfect. Out of the ruins of an old TV he could conjure sheer magic just by moving a massive magnet and changing the internal magnetic field.”
Paik not only used television sets as electronic props in his artwork, but foresaw the future of global entertainment and was instrumental in helping to launch it.
On January 1, 1984, he aired Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, a program that aired entertainment from WNET New York, Centre Pompidou Paris, and South Korea. Viewers were delighted with the innovative offering. In 1986, he created the satellite program Bye Bye Kipling, including live events from Seoul, Tokyo, and New York.