Object shot in gallery © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Nam June Paik, American (Seoul, South Korea 1932 - 2006 Miami, FL)
Cello Memory
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
One-channel video installation with two 40" LCD monitors and cello with permanent oil marker
219.1 x 269.2 x 24.1 cm (86 1/4 x 106 x 9 1/2 in.)
Nam June Paik, created 2002; Ken Hakuta, Miami Beach, FL (2002-2014), gift; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2014.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Hakuta Family
© Nam June Paik Estate
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 4000 Study Center Reception , written 2014
Considered the pioneer of video art, Paik earned a graduate degree in musical composition before he went on to challenge the classical tradition. Influenced by composer John Cage and Fluxus founder George Maciunas, whom he met in Germany in the 1950s, Paik began to combine music and objects to create a new form that we now know as performance art. He presented these works at Fluxus events from Germany to New York during the 1960s and ’70s, often incorporating visual material manipulated using the video synthesizer he developed with engineer Shuya Abe. Paik’s interest in performance resulted in his famous collaborations with the classically trained cellist Charlotte Moorman. She played Paik’s edgy scores in various states: in the nude, while wearing a bra with tiny TV monitors concealing her breasts, or while using a cello made up of three television monitors. The work here suggests the placement of the cello between Moorman’s breasts, with the screens revealing Paik’s synthesized collage of footage recalling her performance from decades earlier.

Label Text: Nam June Paik: Screen Play , written 2018
In 1964, Paik began a decades-long artistic partnership
with Charlotte Moorman, a classically trained cellist
turned avant-garde impresario. Interpreting Paik’s
provocative scores, Moorman played cello while
submerging herself in a tank of water, lying flat on the
floor, or wearing electronic costumes he had made
for her, including a bra and glasses incorporating
tiny televisions. On one occasion, she played a Paik
composition topless at a New York theater, prompting
a highly publicized obscenity trial. In Moorman, Paik
found a collaborator whose energy and daring matched
his own. “Charlotte reawakened my interest in the
performing arts,” he said. “I cannot thank her enough
for this beautiful persuasion.”
This work, produced more than a decade after
Moorman’s death in 1991, represents Paik’s memories of
his artistic partner. Its three-part arrangement suggests
the placement of the cello between her television-clad
breasts, while the evocative video documents her first
performance with Paik’s TV Cello—an instrument crafted
from three stacked sets—at New York’s Galeria Bonino.

Publication History

Suzanne Volmer, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rebecca Horn, Sculpture, International Sculpture Center (June 2015), Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 70

Exhibition History

32Q: 4000 Study Center Reception, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 01/14/2016

Nam June Paik: Screen Play, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/30/2018 - 08/05/2018

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu