Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio
Purchased by Akron Art Museum, September 2, 1987
2018: Haslinger galleries 05/07/2018 - , Akron Art Museum
2016: Haslinger galleries 1/27/16 - 7/5/2016, Akron Art Museum
2007 - 2012: Haslinger galleries 7/7/07 - 8/19/12, Akron Art Museum
2002 - 2003: "As Seen on TV! - Art and Consumer Culture" 7/27/02 - 2/16/03, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "A 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97 - 1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1996: "Akron's Own Rings: Five Passions in World Art" 6/22/96 - 8/11/96, Akron Art Museum
1994: "Selections from the Collection" 6/25/94 - 8/21/94, Akron Art Museum
1991 - 1992: "Focus on the Collection: A 70th Anniversary Celebration" 11/3/91 - 1/5/92, Akron Art Museum
1990 - 1991: "Focus on the Figure" 12/1/90 - 6/23/91, Akron Art Museum
1987: "Family of Robot" 3/5/87 - 4/30/87, Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio
Signed on reverse of framework in black oil paint: "Paik 87"
Nam June Paik
Family of Robot: High Tech Child, 1987
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
The “father of video art,” Nam June Paik will quite possibly be regarded in the future with the same reverence that history now accords Michelangelo or Caravaggio, Picasso or Duchamp—as the inventor of a new way of seeing.
Paik was raised in a prominent Korean family during a tumultuous period that included invasion by Japan and war between South Korea and North Korea. Instead of entering his father’s business, Paik studied art, music, and philosophy, first in Seoul, then in Hong Kong during the Korean War, and later in Tokyo, Munich, and Cologne. By the end of the 1950s he was deeply involved in the world of avant-garde music as a composer and a performer. In Germany in 1963 Paik purchased thirteen used television sets, altered them, put them alongside pianos and noisemakers, and thus gave birth to a raucous new medium for art. Later that year, he began working with video engineers in Japan and also constructed his first robot, which walked, talked, and defecated plastic capsules.
In 1964 Paik visited New York and decided to stay. The following year, his experiments with altered video images had progressed to the point that he was ready to exhibit his first videotape. Paik never abandoned his interest in experimental music. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with other composers and performers, notably composer John Cage and cellist Charlotte Moorman, capturing them on his videotapes and using their musical compositions as well as his own.
High Tech Child is from a large body of video sculpture collectively titled Family of Robot. Paik’s irreverent wit pervades the series, lampooning our era of information-overload even as he celebrates it. The family comprises grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and eleven similar but not identical children, all constructed primarily of television sets that convey the age of the family member. The grandparents, with old radio cabinets for heads, are composed of 1940s sets. The parents are 1940s and 1950s television sets, while the children are made from recent, miniature metal TVs.
The thirteen small television screens of High Tech Child can play either of two energetic, brilliantly colored videotapes produced by the artist: “Heart Channel” or “Robot Channel.” The first is characterized by a rotating globe set against synthesized snippets of scenes from around the world. The second tape has a small robotlike figure surrounded by ever-changing colors and shapes; he is a man-child in a technological promised land. Although the tapes are not accompanied by music or narrative, both present the split-second transformation of one image into another for which Paik is known. This rapid shifting and morphing of images has had a pervasive impact on popular culture, particularly music video and advertising. Consumers worldwide have experienced Paik’s influence without realizing it.
An enjoyable aspect of High Tech Child is its subtle and humorous acknowledgment of art history. The slightly adjustable legs and arms of the TV child assume a frontal pose that recalls the stance of a smiling Greek kouros (a statue of an idealized male youth) from the sixth century B.C., a noble ancestry for Paik’s new vision of humanity. Most amusing is the fact that this metal-clad kid has as his base a wooden TV from the previous generation. Is this new generation acknowledging dependence on older technology, or is the child stamping out his elders? The glass screen of the wooden set has a reminder of what has been displaced. Paik’s hand-brushed painting suggests a landscape or perhaps the defunct Abstract Expressionist movement, but its real message is that painting is obsolete, supplanted by electronic components and a new way of revealing the world.
- Mitchell D. Kahan, 2001
Hanhardt, John G. Nam June Paik. With essays by Dieter Ronte, Michael Nyman, and David A. Ross. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W. W. Norton, 1982.
———. The Worlds of Nam June Paik. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2000.
Stoos, Toni, and Thomas Kellein, eds. Nam June Paik: Video Time—Video Space. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993.