[SNU ICR] The 17th International Renowned Scholar Special Lecture

Apr 27, 2023

Seoul National University Department of Communication BK21 FOUR Free and Responsible AI Media Group and Institute of Communication Research invites renowned international scholars in communication studies.

This lecture will be delivered offline.

We appreciate your participation.

Date: April 27th, 10:00 ~ 12:00

Zoom: (ID: 978 8324 6250)

Lecturer: Steve Choe (San Francisco State University)

Title: Long Distance Recall: Nam June Paik and the Prosthetics of Memory


Nam June Paik, during his prolific and varied career as a musician, artist, and thinker of electronic media, has striven to humanize our relationship to technology. Focusing on two installation pieces, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and Megatron/Matrix, both from 1995, this essay takes this idea further and shows how the human capacity for retention has been constituted technologically through moving image archiving. Electronic Superhighway features 51-channel video feeds, each dedicated to a US state. The content of each feed is made up of stereotypical images as they would be known nationally or globally (the Iowa caucuses, the film Meet Me in St. Louis [1944] for Missouri). Megatron/Matrix also features found footage, depicting cartoon characters, Korean folk dancing, national flags, and the Seoul Olympics, among other images. The presentation of this footage, across 215 monitors, is objectifying and mesmerizing. Drawing from the writings of Siegfried Kracauer, Bernard Stiegler, and Paik’s own writings, this essay shows how Paik’s work anticipates the radical transformation in humans’ capacity to recall the past, of histories that have and have not been lived, through prosthetic communication technologies such as the “information superhighway” of the internet. Megatron/Matrix provides a critical view on this transformation, showing how the “outsourcing” of memory to electronic images, and particularly the globalization of Korean national specificity, potentially removes ontological differences contingent upon distinctions between near and far. After having left Korea and lived abroad for almost four decades, Paik observed the turbulent political and economic developments of his birthland as well as the triumph of the 1988 Olympics from a distance, but was able to recall them as global signifiers through the electronic image.

About the Lecturer:

Steve Choe is an associate professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University. His areas of research and teaching include film and media theory, philosophy, and the cinemas of Germany and Korea. He is the author of Afterlives: Allegories of Film and Mortality in Early Weimar Germany (2014), Sovereign Violence: Ethics and South Korean Cinema in the New Millennium (2016), and ReFocus: The Films of Williams Friedkin (2021). He is also a co-editor, with Mayumo Inoue, of Beyond Imperial Aesthetics: Theories of Art and Politics in East Asia (2019) and is the editor of the Palgrave Handbook for Violence in Film and Media (2022).