Widow Documents Last Days of Paik Nam-june

    January 29, 2007 08:05

    The widow of the father of video art Paik Nam-june has released moving footage documenting the artist’s last years, when he was incapacitated by a stroke. The videos Shigeko Kubota (70) exclusively released to the Chosun Ilbo feature Paik at his peak and in his final days. The footage has been edited onto three tapes -- "Sexual Healing" (2006, 4 minutes and 20 seconds), "April Is the Cruelest Month" (1999, 52 minutes), and "My Life With Namjune Paik" (2007, 1 hour and 5 minutes). The tapes reflect the artist's life, love, and art, all of which he clung to until his last moments.

    Scenes from videos documenting the final years of the godfather of video art Paik Nam-june, when he was incapacitated by a stroke, interspersed with footage from his heyday, by his widow Shigeko Kubota.

    "Sexual Healing," which was shot by Kubota, shows Paik undergoing rehabilitation for a stroke in the hospital and at home. Paik can be seen laying his hand on the hips of a nurse assisting him in physical therapy, and hugging and kissing his wife. Over top of the therapy scenes, Kubota edited the song “Sexual Healing” by American soul singer Marvin Gay which contains lyrics like "get up, wake up." "My husband expressed his wish to live until his last moment," Kubota said.

    The late video artist Paik Nam-june and his wife, Shigeko Kubota

    The title of the second video is the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem "The Waste Land.” Paik collapsed suddenly in April 1996 while trying to secure a permanent space for Korean modern art in Venice, Italy. He said he wanted to repay the fatherland that loved him. Kubota quotes the poem to reflect the pain of watching her husband, who had to stop working at his peak for the last 10 years of his life. In an interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Kubota said that people call him a great artist, but to her, he was a grown-up child. To express her affection, Kubota alternates video images of her husband in his last days, when he had difficulty walking with a cane, with scenes of him in his youth.

    "My Life With Namjune Paik" will be open to the public at a memorial service for the late artist at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Korea on Monday. The video shows Paik Nam-june as a young avant-garde artist in the 1960s and 1970s when he shocked the art world by smashing a piano, cutting up a necktie, and building a pile of TV sets; Paik in his middle years visiting the tombs of his ancestors in Korea right after he caused another furor with his video work "Good-bye Mr. Orwell" on Jan. 1, 1984; and Paik spending the winter recuperating from his stroke with his wife in the warm sunshine of Miami, Florida.

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