Nam June Paik
American (b. Seoul, Korea, 1932-2006)
Hamlet Robot, 1996
Pioneering video artist Nam June Paik acquired the first portable video recorder in 1965 and began his prolific, multimedia career. Perhaps best known for his video-sculptures and installations, Paik composed a series of six robotic sculptures in 1996, which portrayed famous Danes from history and literature. Among them was the tragic Prince of Denmark in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. Using thirteen vintage televisions sets as building blocks, Paik created a hulking giant who wears the family crown. He holds a royal staff in one hand and a plastic skull in the other—a playful reference to Hamlet's dramatic soliloquy on life and death. TV screens hypnotically pulse with Shakespearean images drawn from the theater and movies.