Coming to the end of my undergraduate college career, I was finishing a B.A. in computer science, and I was hating it. Hating the “Boys Only” locker room atmosphere in the department, hating the prospect of spending 50% of my career justifying my presence to my peers, and hating the fact that Abby – best friend extraordinaire and only other female student in the department – and I were constantly on the defensive.
So I spent my last year at college suffering through one last Human-Computer Interaction Theory class, but devoted the rest of the year to a Studio Art minor. Getting away from the computer lab and being able to spend hours in my studio made me a much nicer person – ask my classmates. During that time I had two revelatory experiences: Feminist Art and Intermedia Art.
And here’s where the blame game begins:
This is all your fault, Nam June Paik. All of it! Things were simpler for me back in the day when visual arts meant paintings, collages, and photography. I could see where the Dada and Fluxus artists were headed, sure, but what did that have to do with me? The first time I saw an image of TV Cello in a book, I totally thought I was going to piss my pants in my excitment to show that picture to every last one of my friends and classmates. And Charlotte Moorman is so cool! She fearlessly left behind a career as a concert cellist to tackle your beast of a cello. That is so punk rock.
TV Cello, 1971
Really, it’s your fault for bringing me back from the brink of being DONE with technology. Just when I was sure that Dante had mistakenly omitted the level of Hell where people are forced to sit and write C++ code for all eternity, you come around and reassure me that there is a middle ground where art and tech can get along. Why tear my hair out and scream at the computer (because of a certain hateful professor), when I can just deconstruct it turn it into a media sculpture? Why push the digital age away when it’s much more interesting to transform it in an art installation? You took the best of artists that I respected but wasn’t really a fan of – Fluxus, John Cage – and distilled it into a form that left me in a constant state of awe.
You are directly responsible for numerous hours of my time spent filling notebooks with ideas for assemblage technology pieces. In fact, I think my paper on Ubiquitous Computing would have been that much sharper had I not been spacing out about digital and moving image art.
Piano Piece, 1993
You brought the notion of contemporary art home for me, and inspired a love of technology and the moving image that might not have evolved otherwise. I blame you, Nam June Paik. It’s all your fault.
And now you’ve gone and broken my heart. I’ll miss you.
Nam June Paik, 1932-2006