Nam June Paik, ‘Robot K 567’, 1994, Nam June Paik Art Center

Robot K 567 was made from the same context of Robot K 456, which was first exhibited in “the Second Annual New York Avant-Garde Festival” in 1964, Robot K 456 is Paik’s first work that took a shape of robot. Produced in collaboration with Japanese engineers, this work was a 20-channel remote-control robot, and it was named after Mozart’s Piano concerto no. 18 in B-flat, whose Köchel Catalog number is 456. It could walk around the street, play a recording of President John F. Kennedy’s speech, and drop peas as if to excrete. Robot K-456 participated in a number of performances with Paik. In 1982, this robot was set in motion again in an accident-performance as part of Paik’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where it was struck by a car while crossing a road. Paik called the performance as “the first catastrophe of the 21st century,” trying to reveal the falsehood of mechanical rationality and propose a humanized machine that possesses human anxiety and emotion and experiences life and death.

Image rights: Courtesy of Museum SAN

About Nam June Paik

Considered the father of video art, Nam June Paik pioneered the use of televisual electronic media in art. An integral member of the Fluxus movement alongside John Cage and George Macunias, Paik sought new modes of artistic expression and cultural exchange in his music, performances, and media works. Paik recognized the TV as more than a content delivery mechanism in works such as Zen for TV, a broken television broadcasting only a horizontal line across the screen. He created numerous robots composed of television sets, produced a synthesizer that allowed him and others to manipulate electronic imagery in real-time, and made the first video collages with found imagery. Coining the term “the electronic superhighway,” he imagined a world in which human beings near and far would be connected through radio waves and television broadcast channels—in many ways predicting the internet. Paik explored the widening reach of media in his large-scale video installations that display an assault of flickering of images and masterpieces like Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, a groundbreaking live performance broadcast on television in five countries on January 1, 1989, which offered a utopian answer to Orwell’s bleak predictions for the future in his classic novel 1984.

South Korean, 1932-2006, Seoul, South Korea