Paik Nam June was incredibly educated, he was familiar with all the German philosophers(Hegel, Heideger) and writers and Buddhism. He was a great enricher to that post-serial or still serial music scene. In 1957-1959,<Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik> in Darmstadt was the centre of modern art. Schoenberg and Weber and their music had already accustomed our ears to shrill tones, but that had not happend in ‘visual art’ yet. In art, there was Tachismus and also abstract art, but it didn’t hurt our eyes the way the music hurt our ears. In the sphere of visual art, it was still a matter of visible things that did not hurt. But Paik hurt our ears and our eyes with acoustic and visual collage, and that was his intention. Yet Paik was not determined to create new objects, but to create new states of awareness(Bewusstseinszustaende). His concern was with the deeply philosophical: what is the square root of ... what is the quintessence?Cologne was a center of modern music with Electronic Studio. For that reason Paik came to Cologne. The occupying forces had divided Germany into five zones and that each zone had its own radio programme. They were competing with and against one another with new music of diverse genres and in that way man got far many modern music on those different, decentralized radio programmes. Germany, as a result of this division into separate radio stations, led the way, and WDR Cologne was the most progressive broadcaster.
Here Paik was never one of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s pupils, as one can often read or hear today in the media. But he was a close observer. He was always a loner and certainly a man on his own. At that time, when he was welcome in Jean Pierre Wilhelm’s Galerie 22 in 1958-59, he was not a group. Later,when Maciunas came from America, he always became a part of people who attached themselves to him, or he himself joined in with Things.
The avantgard artists in the Rheinland had Dada-intention and asceticism and in September 1958 paik entered into this situation with his keen mind and his demand that music had to move things-he was still a musician. And than in Winter he was going to change medium, to enter art soon. In 13. November 1959 he did the first concert <Hommage à John Cage> in Galerie 22,Düsseldorf. He could play the piano fantastically. But in 6. September 1960 in concert <Etude für Piano Forte> he played Chopin-and at the moment when man was all happily listening to Chopin, he suddenly banged his head on the keys and dashed all their expectations of ultimate ‘salvation though the classical and harmonious’. Exactly it was the destruction of traditional music and performance by him. And than he was something in-between, between music and art. And that sums up in the <Originale>(1961.10.26-11.6), that is the originalle people-artists-, Paik as painter, and played some time of their own.
Paik was in such a state of concentration with his hands in front of his face.
At the same time the Kontakte are playing, with incredibly alien sounds, there is this Zen-like peace, the thin ascetic face of Paik: that was a moment of deep emotion. he performed something different every evening. It all had something to do with DADA revival. He was still the loner at the time. It was Paik with his own distress, with his knowledge of culture, with his crossing over the borders between music and the visual, and with his consciousness of action and time. And he brought an enhancement that truly moved Europe. But there was no Fluxus yet.
Basically, abstract Modernism was dead, its pretensions were too high, and Paik had seen these things on a very deep level, had experienced them deeply,and he introduced them again in an entirely different way. He said the way it was <Fluxus> as “a new world”, where he was a center of the group as organizations man, as performer, as assistant.