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The Politics of Cosmopolitanism: Nam June Paik, Mega-Events and the Spectacle of Media Art

Thursday, Jan 24, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

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The Politics of Cosmopolitanism: Nam June Paik, Mega-Events and the Spectacle of Media Art

DepartmentCenter for Critical Korean Studies

Date and Time: January 24, 2019 | 2:00 PM-3:30 PM

Event Location: HG 1010

Event Details


Mega sports events like the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup are the largest-in-scale global media events, which have a dramatic character and engender popular appeal and mass participation. In the age of live television broadcasting, the 1988 Seoul Olympics was seen as an opportunity to establish political legitimacy (democratization), to reconfigure Korea’s global standing (the end of the Cold War), and to lead the nation to expedite economic prosperity (industrialization) by disseminating the media spectacle of the ‘new’ Korea. In the centre of articulating of both a form of Korean national identity and the cosmopolitan visuality over the period of the Seoul Olympics lay Nam June Paik’s artworks, <Wrap around the World> and <The More, the Better>. Drawing on Marshall McLuhan’s provocative idea of ‘global village’, Paik grappled to disclose the intersection of local and national cultural components and global and cosmopolitan spectacles through his works. In this talk, I will discuss Nam June Paik’s controversial works with particular reference to cybernetic aesthetics, medium theory, and cosmopolitanism. In doing so, I would argue that Paik’s mega-event related works played a role as the media spectacle, lacking the geopolitical engagement with vernacular cosmopolitan dialogue in Korea during the turbulent period of the 1980s and 1990s. 


Jaeho Kang is Associate Professor in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication at Seoul National University. He was Senior Lecturer in Critical Media and Cultural Studies at SOAS, University of London (2012-2018), Assistant Professor in Sociology of Media at the New School in New York City (2005-2012), and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Institut für Sozialforschung of the University of Frankfurt (2004-2005). He completed his PhD in social and critical theory at the University of Cambridge in 2004. Kang is the author of Walter Benjamin and the Media: The Spectacle of Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014). His work focuses on critical and social theory of media with particular reference to the intersections of digital screen, media spectacle, and urban space. He is currently co-editing Siegfried Kracauer’s various writings on media and propaganda for publication with Columbia University Press.