A unique art piece has a new home at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Electro-Symbio Phonics for Phoenix, by international artist Nam June Paik, was initially commissioned by the City of Phoenix in 1992 for America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena).
After a significant renovation at the arena, the art was removed and has a new temporary home at the Phoenix Airport Museum’s Terminal 4 Gallery.
“Nam June Paik was a pioneer in digital and video art,” said Haley Hinds, an art specialist with the Phoenix Airport Museum. “While we typically exhibit Arizona artists and resources, this artwork is owned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. We are fortunate to share it with the public.”
Paik’s art piece consists of a “robot family.” There is a mother, father and child all with unique configurations. The entire family consists of 63 television sets on four custom-video channels that display distorted images of desert plants, sports and relevant entertainment clips. In between the family members are neon panels that represent communication, language, biology and technology.
“By personifying television sets, Paik imagines a future where technology is an integral part of the natural world,” Hinds said. “This piece is especially unique because it was created for the City of Phoenix back in 1992.”
Paik was born in South Korea but made other countries like the United States his home while working on his art career in the early 1960s, along with the rapid growth of technology. By the 1970s, he invented his own technological term: electronic superhighway. Paik recognized technology’s ability to transform how humans communicate and collaborate.
Paik passed away in 2006, but his art still resonates worldwide, especially in Phoenix. According to Hinds, Paik is known as the “Father of Video Art” and was the first artist to use television as a medium.
“A common theme throughout Paik’s artwork is that technology is not in conflict with nature, but an extension of it,” Hinds said.
“Displaying this artwork at the airport allows us to exhibit a globally recognized artist, and also reflects the growth and expansion of the city and its commitment to valuing arts and culture throughout the years,” Hinds said.
Paik’s Electro-Symbio Phonics for Phoenix art piece is part of the Phoenix Airport Museum’s rotating exhibition program, which includes 40 different art pieces throughout the airport. Each art installation is displayed for about six to 12 months, but due to the sheer size of Paik’s piece, the entire Terminal 4 Gallery has turned into an immersive art experience.
The gallery is open daily from 6 a.m. to
9 p.m. and is accessible to the public for free. All art installations are in areas located before security, allowing people to explore the art throughout the airport without a boarding pass.