NAM JUNE PAIK 1932-2006

Last time I was in New York, in 1994, interview Phill Niblock for this, we left his studio for a meal when we were done, and as we were crossing the road — somewhere in Chinatown, I forget where — Niblock pointed, to an unassuming middle-aged Korean hurrying along through the press of evening pedestrians: “There’s Paik!” And he waved. The village was still a village, just about — the titans of 60s arts Manhattan, fluxus, the New Music, mostly scattered, many already dead, just a few living on in rent-controlled lofts and apartments, able to bump into one another in the streets and chat.

His video-art works and his robots are what get into museums —

— but excellent though these are what i like best are his happenings and concept music pieces. Hommage to John Cage is one of the former: a solo performance where he pushed a piano over, rubbed soap in Cage’s hair before cutting off his tie — Cage was in the audience and didn’t know this was going to happen — then scampered out of the room: a phone on-stage began ringing, on and on till someone in the audience answered it — Paik calling from wherever to say the piece was over. Of the latter, the one just called Symphony to Last a Million Years.