Not a super highway
Nam June Paik’s cars for the 20th century

Nam June Paik A selection from 32 cars for the 20th century play Moazart's Requiem quietly (detail) 1997 Collection of the Samsung Foundation of CultureNam June Paik A selection from 32 cars for the 20th century play Moazart's Requiem quietly (detail) 1997   Collection of the Samsung Foundation of Culture
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From February to April 2004, eight large silver cars will be parked inside the National Gallery of Australia. An installation by the internationally renowned artist Nam June Paik, the suite of vintage and classic vehicles was first displayed in Australia in January during the 2004 Sydney Festival: the Gallery is grateful to the organisers of the Festival for the opportunity to show a powerful work by this celebrated artist.

Nam June Paik is a veteran of biennales and arts festivals, his work perhaps most prominently displayed at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when he stacked over 1000 video monitors into a tower for his The more the better installation. The Olympic event was something of a homecoming for Nam June Paik. Although born in Korea in 1932, the artist’s formal training — in philosophy, history and music, took place in Japan, then Germany. Since 1964 he has been based in New York. A truly international artist who believes firmly in the global dimensions of modern life, his works feature prominently in collections around the globe — in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States. At the 1993 Venice Biennale, for instance, he was representing Germany when his installation Electronic super highway received the prize for best pavilion. In another ongoing series of works, Nam June Paik juxtaposes discarded television sets with sculptural images of the Buddha — perhaps his most famous visual manifestation of the irrefutable connectedness of past and present. Thus a classical statue of the Buddha stares transfixed with its own image on the closed-circuit television screen in his 1974 TV Buddha.

The selection of cars from Nam June Paik’s 32 cars for the 20th century play Mozart’s Requiem quietly demonstrates many of the key features of the artist’s vocabulary. On loan from the Samsung Foundation of Culture in Seoul, the work was first created in 1997. Each vehicle has been reduced to a shell, brilliantly coated in silver paint, into which has been packed discarded electronic equipment. The cars may be a new feature of Nam June Paik’s work, but the fascination for sound and screen, music and recycling obsolete electronic forms and furniture have been trademarks of the artist’s pioneering video and installation art for almost half a century. The artist has also had a long association with music. Following his formal training in music theory and electronic music in Germany, he collaborated with composers and performers in a wide range of avant-garde video, installation and performance works. Much of his performance art during his 1976 Sydney visit featured cellist Charlotte Moorman playing the artist’s own compositions.

In the installation at the National Gallery of Australia, audiences will again be confronted, in his characteristically playful style, by Nam June Paik’s enduring exploration of the meeting of art, music and technology to reveal his ongoing obsession with and manipulation of manifestations of obsolescence and change in the electronic age.

Robyn Maxwell
Senior Curator, Asian Art
National Gallery of Australia

read more about Nam June Paik at

Nam June Paik
A selection from 32 cars for the 20th century play Mozart’s Requiem quietly

7 February – 26 April 2004

Presented by the National Gallery of Australia and Sydney Festival


sydney festival