mixed pixels - nam june paik
name june paik students. video dreams - ausstellung im kunstmuseum duesseldorf vom 5.4.-5.5.1996

Nam June Paik
talkin with
Angela Melitopulos and Maurizio Lazzarato

New York, March 1995

A: Once you said, video is time ...

Paik: Video has components of space and time, but actually time is the most important of them, because the so-called static picture itself is nothing else lines, one pixel through the electronic base weaves the picture, so there is not really space in the electronic picture and everything is time ...

A: Could time be defined in the electronical media as the imitation of the "time of creation?"

Paik: What is creation, like the Big Bang?

Every picture which is electronically scanned is basically time, but when you create a picture on the computer screen, it looks like a still-picture. For example, when you do the molding of a ship or a car or human being in a computer simulation, first you use a pen and then some algorithms. You create a first frame, then you render more and more so it becomes space on it’s surface.

That indicates, that computer-artists have to work days for one picture, but it looks like more of a static picture. I would say in psycologically terms, these static pictures are becoming more preponderend. That is new. The computer still-picture is a very interesting tool. But I am not working in that way. I instruct the "jiri-jiri" (the helper/slave) and he works out the computer frames and improves them. What one can do, is just marvellous, it is a new field. Basically speaking of course. We had enormous problems with space components for my video sculptures. Many people like quietness, if things are moving around to much, they don’t buy, it is disturbing.

A: So with the informatical medium there is a different relationship to time...

Paik: Oh yes, every generation with every technics discovers its own time.

You can have short cuts and a very boring life too. Now you see 50 pictures a second, so time can extend and shrink.

A: The brain is constructing and reconstructing images. Is video simulating the kind of construction and reconstruction? Are new digital technics simulating the intellectual work?

Paik: Your question is too intellectual, I might misinterpretate it.

From everything which is digitilized, it is easier to do random access processes. In the digital media you have a so-called "adressing system". The frustrating time of analogue editing is a problem. You have to memorise... analogue editing is based on a time-coding system. Digital is easier to get access to. In digital you can also deprocess anything, it is easier, it comes from algebra. Basically speaking, you have to break the picture down into mathematical formulars and reconstruct them, therefore it is easier to divide them and access certain programm areas, it is as easy as surgery. Digital pictures are more intellectual than analogue pictures by definition, but it is harder to create a digital picture. Analogue pictures you just have to shoot them. You can record ten minutes of pictures in ten minutes of time. To make ten minutes of digital pictures, it takes a half a year. So in many ways, it is o.k., that you are focussing your questions to the issue of digital and analogue. I think it is a good question, I never thougt of that clearly.

A: Digital is slower than analoge?

Paik: Yes, because, see this, I am buying digital pictures from my students, because it would be very expensive to create them.

A: Has the analogue editing-process something to do with how memory is processed in the brain and is therefore digital completely different, because the access to the pictures is different?

Paik: I mean, I didn’t get completely, what digital means.

It is like making babies with chemicals. It takes long time, it’s different than making babies naturally... (laughing)

A: Is there a continuity from digital to analoge or is there a break?

Paik: The continuity comes from function and purpose. Digital imaging was developed for military use. The crucial point is the satellite picture. Many aspects were develloped through the Vietnamese war. When the satellite takes pictures tonight and then the next day, or every ten minutes, you can compare, what moves. For example, if the Vietcong guerilla moved. You therefore have to simulate in a quantitative way - the American way, you know - and from there they gradually came to todays Jurassic Park kind of thing. And then, there is the extension of Disney World’s comics: You know, Jurassic Park came from Walt Disney’s Micky Mouse. It was an extension of it. The extension of Micky Mouse is Jurassic Park, you know, the dinosaurs...

A: Yes I saw it...

Paik: I didn’t see it, but I can imagine.

Depending on the function, Jurassic Park is the extension of Disney, but it is much more powerful because it has a certain value of animation, which Disney does not have, so it has more of a psychological effect, a different psychological impact. So it is new or old depending on the kind of interest. But there is a continuity of function. People are used to this, because of its psychological impact. It is more perfect than the old thing. The digital appel is more perfect than a real appel, so there is a certain kind of a modern feeling. You could say it is different. It must be, but I am not a metaphysical thinker. In my work I imagine the metaphysical meaning later. So the world is interested, because there are reasons, metaphysical reasons. Because the metaphysical reason comes after you create an art work, but not before...

A: Exactly.

Paik: Non-semiotique philosophy was defined by looking for the subject, because there are no philosophical methods...

A: You said: "Video wants to have an answer" (example radar). Do the new technologies of imaging want to have answers too?

Paik: The radar was the first two-way communication tool. You radiate some signals of information and then you receive them back. It is interactive. The first interactive television was a radar. The new cabel technologies are becoming more and more interactive, that’s clear. Nintendo is like a interactive television, a very very successful one. The digital picture is becoming strong, because you can interact much easier. Tele-shopping or playing games is not possible with the analogue medium.

A: But is it really different?

Paik: No, with the digital you can manipulate and isolate the problems, so you can resolve them. The famous Descartes action means: divise and resolve - I mean analyse... with the digital you can divide much easier...

A: So you are dividing the answers too?

Paik: Any analytical thinking needs division. It is not organic, its sence is non-organical. For example in the economic competition for the High Definition Television there existed two systems: The NHK system, which was the Japanese system, and the American system. Japan was aware of the possibilities of High Definition already thirty years ago, so they conceived it with analogue techniques. America developed High Definition Television much later, but they developed it with the digital techniques. America won the battle, because with the digital picture you can access new services: For example two-way shopping, etc. This was the reason why the NHK system was defeated in the marked place. The digital television has new functions, therefore people will buy it some day. Digital is more interactive by definition.

A: Has this new digital, interactive technique new artistic and social possibilities?

Paik: It could be done, if somebody would pay, because it is getting very expensive. Any new kind of tourism is expensive. So people get excluded, but of course digital is the future. Did you read the New York Times Business section today?

A: No

Paik: There was this headline, that a tiny company was challenging Motorolla and everybody, because they have a new patent of a digital multi-pluck system and they can correct new ideas from ten years ago. So they will receive media-royalties. This is very good example of digital superiority... Anyway you have to read the business section of every newspaper, where you are, if you want to survive in video.

A. What will become the old television inside the multimedia?

Paik: There are three kind of main uses. One is "video on demand", where you have 500 channels.. another one is home-shopping, which is becoming very powerful because the Japanese people are buying directly from the Americans.

As you know, the shopping channel of America is claiming so much money, that they are able to buy the CBS. The third one is home-computing, where you are not paid for working time and I think, that this is very powerful. Besides the morning traffic is terrible. Germany is better than other countries, Japan and Korea are impossible. If everybody is organizing his own time and starts working at home, this is good ecologically. For me this is interesting, because I work at home, so my life is far far easier than that of my friends, who decided on a business career, and now they are just dying unrelatively young.

A: With the analogue the magnetic is disappearing..

Paik: When you see a picture in a liquid cristal screen for computers, it seems to have the dynamic, which the analogue picture used to have… it is possible. This is a very interesting observation. Let’s say you record hot love scenes, when you see them on the old fashionned TV, they have more motion than on flat screens, which are less dynamic (laughing)

A: I have one more question: Has a video image any signification?

Paik: Signification? Bedeutung? There is the "Bedeutung" of the video-image itself. A very waste question. A movie-image can be anything, a video-image can be anything and a oil painting can be anything. When you are a philosopher, you see the totality of the oil-painting, the totality of terra cotta, of photography, of television... there are characteristics and aesthetics - a professor could make some general remarks

A: I am talking about the image inflation

Paik: I like to ponder this very philosophical european question of yours like Immanuel Kant about "Urteilskraft". I mean it is interesting for intellectual issues and for some political reasons too, but for me... I am not too good at it. I published a book in France and in Germany with Edith Decker, edited by Dumont you know...

A: Yes, I know that book...

Paik: Nobody read that book. I think there is a lot to discover theoretically, but since it was not done as a theoretical book, I think it didn’t make any impact in Germany: In France it has more impact, French people like it more than Germans. In Germany nobody told that it was a good book. Not a single person (laughing), but it will be discovered later...

A: It is a good book

Paik: Yes, but nobody told me yet, you are the first person... anyway I have to go shopping now, by the way, they have stolen my bicycle, so...

A: Thank you very very much.