Rediscovering Paik: A Chat With Smithsonian Curator John G. Hanhardt
Posted by John Anderson on Mar. 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm
Given the recent opening of an exhibition of Nam June Paik’s work at the National Gallery of Art, as well as the long-term commitment to media art the Smithsonian American Art Museum has made its Watch This! exhibition, I thought now would be a good time to talk with SAAM’s senior curator for media arts, John G. Hanhardt, about the Nam June Paik archives. SAAM acquired the archives in 2009 and plans to dedicate an exhibition to them next year. We discussed the institution’s commitment to Paik and the history of the moving image, the difficulties of presenting media art, and the upcoming show.
Washington City Paper: Since a personal relationship often springs from a professional relationship, how well did you know Paik?
John Hanhardt: I knew him very well from the early 1970s, and I was privileged to be engaged in his work and to include his work in numerous exhibitions. I traveled with him to Germany where he introduced me to many of his colleagues and friends. I would visit him and his wife, Shigeko [Kubota], in his loft and studio. We were in active personal communication and spent time together. After his stroke I visited him very shortly thereafter in the hospital, and flew down to Miami, frequently, to see him. I spent time with him regularly until the end. A lot of our conversations were about projects, because he was always working on things: whether it was developing a satellite television project, or a video tape, or a sculpture. Some of those projects were discussed because I was involved in them as a curator and some of those things we discussed were because he wanted me to know about them.