Today @ AK

Nam June Paik

American, born Korea, 1932–2006

Piano Piece, 1993

Closed-circuit video sculpture
120 x 84 x 48 inches (304.8 x 213.4 x 121.9 cm)
Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 1993

Piano Piece was created by Nam June Paik as a tribute to his close friend and mentor, avant-garde composer John Cage, who died in 1992. Paik met Cage in 1958 in Germany, a meeting that was crucial to Paik’s future role as the “father of video art.”

A computer program by Richard Titlebaum plays music by Cage on the upright piano, and the composer’s image appears in the four central monitors at the top. The hands and head seen playing the piano on three of the other monitors belong to Paik, who was an accomplished pianist. Alternating with Paik’s hands and head are images of another Cage friend, avant-garde dancer Merce Cunningham, and seemingly unrelated images of babies. The other six monitors show live video of the piano, recorded by the two video cameras. These unusual uses of a piano are appropriate as a tribute to Cage, whose experiments with altered and prepared pianos have become legendary.