Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking To Me

Nam June Paik in "Rameau's Nephew..." film made by Michael Snow in 1974
Photo by Annette Michelson

Aki Onda "Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking to Me” LP with booklet was released by LA-based label Recital in June 2020.

Update 1: Sinse the LP sold out quikly, Recital will release the second edition in 2022. 

Update 2: The installation version of “Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking to Me” is commisioned by The Toronto Biennial of Art from March 26 - June 5, 2022. 

Listen to the tracks HERE. 

Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking To Me (2017)
audio recordings, radio broadcast

Commissioned by documenta 14, Every Time A Ear di Soun
On air from April 8 to September 17, 2017

documenta 14  

For the duration of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, under the platform of Every Time A Ear di Soun, this work was broadcast through nine radio stations in Greece, Cameroon, Colombia, Lebanon, Brazil, Indonesia, the United States, and Germany. This was also streamed at The radio program live streams on FM in Kassel, the documenta 14 website, and on shortwave around the world.

Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking to Me occurred purely by chance. In 2010, I was spending four days at Nam June Paik Art Center in South Korea for a series of performances and had plenty of free time to wander. The building was packed with Paik's artwork and related material. I have always felt a close kinship with him as an artist, and so it was a great opportunity to immerse myself in his works and ephemera.

It was that night I made the first contact, via a hand-held radio in a hotel room in Seoul. It was literally out of the blue. Scanning through the stations, I stumbled upon what sounded like a submerged voice and I began to record it in fascination. I concluded this was Paik's spirit reaching out to me.

The project continued to grow organically as I kept channeling Paik’s spirit over long distance and receiving cryptic broadcasts/messages. The series of séances, conducted in different cities across the globe, began in Seoul in 2010, and continued in Köln, Germany in 2012, Wrocław, Poland in 2013, and Lewisburg, USA in 2014. The original recordings were captured by the same radio which has a tape recorder, with almost no editing, save for some minimal slicing by an mastering.

Paik is known for his association with shamanism, a practice tha constantly surfaces in his works all through his career. In an interview, he stated “In Korea, diverse forms of shamanism are strongly remained. Even though I have created my work unconsciously, the most inspiring thing in my work came from Korean female shaman Mudang.” Paik himself was a master shaman and vividly used shaman rituals and symbols for staging his performances and installations.

These recordings also became a way for me to explore the mythic form of radio—a medium which is full of mysteries. The transmissions captured may be "secret broadcasts" on anonymous radio stations. There are in fact hundreds of those stations around the world, although the numbers dwindle as clandestine messages can now be sent via encrypted
digital channels. Some of these stations were likely for military use or espionage or relics of the Cold War. But many others continue without apparent explanation. These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.

1.    Seoul, 2010
Köln, 2012

3.    Lewisburg, 2014
4.    Wrocław, 2013

Recorded by Aki Onda with a portable radio, 2010 - 14
Mastered by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin, 2017