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Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV (Dir.Amanda Kim, 2023, 107 minutes).
A new film offering insight into one of the most fearlessly innovative and playfully prophetic artists our time, Nam June Paik who first coined the term “Information Superhighway” and how his outlook on human behavior and technology resonates ever more powerfully in today’s interconnected world.
Debut filmmaker Amanda Kim’s captivating, kinetic documentary tells the remarkable story of Paik as a citizen of the world and trailblazing artist, who both saw the present and predicted the future with astonishing clairvoyance. Kim pays special attention to Paik’s Korean-American identity and his life as an artist at the forefront of an emergent art form. Narrated by actor Steven Yeun (MINARI, BURNING) reading Paik’s own written words to showcase the artist’s strategic playfulness and immense creativity. This new film skillfully combines archival footage, interviews and clips from the artist’s work to recount his collaborations and fascinations with Joseph Beuys, Charlotte Moorman (the topless cellist), David Bowie, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Allen Ginsberg, Merce Cunningham, and his great mentor and friend, John Cage. A consummate shape-shifter — classical composer, subversive trickster, pioneer of experimental “interventions” (he called “action music”) and, according to friends, speaker of nine languages (all badly). Paik’s influences ranged from Hegel to Schoenberg, from traditional Korean dance to Buddhism, space travel, and beyond.
“I use technology in order to hate it more properly.” -Nam June Paik
Born in 1932 to one of Korea’s most affluent families in Japan-occupied Korea, Paik studied as a classical musician before moving to Germany in the 1950s. Paik’s development as an artist took a critical turn after he went to Munich in 1956 to study music and saw avant-garde composer John Cage perform. “My life started one evening in 1958,” Paik wrote, “1957 was B.C. (Before Cage).” Cage gave Paik “the courage to be free.” Smashing a violin, setting a piano on fire, and using his body as an instrument could be art, and not just art, but rebellion: against the Western order and otherwise constricted notions of freedom. Paik became a member of the influential experimental art movement Fluxus, which created new forms of art and performance and these possibilities would inform the rest of Paik’s art process and career. After immigrating to the United States, he became fully engaged with television and video art in a way that would revolutionize how the world thinks of image-making in the electronic age. What ultimately gained Paik recognition was his 1974 piece TV Buddha, a video sculpture that depicts a Buddha statue watching its own image on an adjacent television screen. The installation meditates on varying themes – from the relationship between self-absorption and technology to the contrasts and parallels between East and West. Paik coined the term “electronic superhighway” long before the Internet was omnipresent, and heavily influenced generations of artists in all genres.
“ENGROSSING. A clear picture of the artist as a joyfully disruptive presence.”
– Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com
Audience Advisory: This film contains strobe effects and may potentially trigger seizures. Viewer discretion is advised.
A note about seating in The Backlot Cinema: We encourage our guests to come as if to a picnic – so please bring your own blankets, cushions or folding chairs – you want to be comfortable so bring all the coziness you need! Restrooms provided. In the case of rain this event will be moved indoors into our Sanctuary.