Brush With Paik

02023-03-01 | History, Memories, Ottmar | 5 comments

In 1976 I had signed up for a couple of programs outside of school in Köln. The first program was simple, available to all students, and should really exist everywhere, in my opinion. I added myself to a list of students who would receive a postcard (a common notification method in the old days, in case you are under thirty years old) when any of a number of theaters scheduled a final dress rehearsal. Armed with the postcards I would show up and sit in an empty theater and experience the new play. Most of the time the play would take its course and I wasn’t even aware that it was, in fact, a rehearsal. Only one time there seemed to be problems and the play was interrupted several times so the director could give instructions. I couldn’t afford tickets to go to the theater but this program gave me an opportunity to experience it anyway. The only cost to the tax payer was price of the postcard. Brilliant!

The other program was one where I offered myself as helper for a production company. I remember getting a call asking whether I could show up the next day and help carry some gear for a documentary film maker. The subject was, of course, Nam June Paik. I met the Mr. Paik, the film maker, and an assistant near the river, for the first scene to be filmed. Mr. Paik stood on the bridge and looked down on the Rhine. He started counting in French. While the camera and microphone were readied, Mr. Paik asked me what the French words for 70 and 80 were. Soixante-dix and quatre-vingts, I replied. The camera was ready and the counting began. After several minutes Mr. Paik explained to the camera that what he was doing was counting the waves. Since he didn’t speak French he really had to concentrate to count, which gave him a different awareness of the waves, and of the counting.

The other scene I remember was staged on a busy pedestrian-only shopping street in the city center. Mr. Paik dragged a violin along the street by a string. I don’t remember how this action was explained. I would like to recall more, but that’s the extend of my memory.


  1. anne

    Funny – if my kid got stuck playing the violin – that is exactly what she would have done.

    She wanted the cello ,… school gave her a violin but she refused to play, She settled on the viola.

    (which was good – cause she got into a junior orchestra outside of school cause they needed viola players only… it was brilliant while it lased – excellent music teachers)

    • anne

      thinking about it, ….my kid got an excellent musical start.

      Sang in 4 different choirs – 2 traveled the world, 1 was first class…..tough teachers – had to audition, musical theory etc, endless practices.

      And piano …did some exams. ( she can teach young kids)

      (plus 2 orchestra’s)

      Now – it’s just academics and work.

      (miss hearing her and going to practices/performances-…bought a beautiful piano for her )

  2. Elisabeth

    Ottmar, do you speak french ?

    • ottmar

      I don’t speak French well. Enough to order food. :-)

      • Elisabeth

        I have read that the french people talk a lot about food… More than the other European countries ! If you come in France, you know the essential vocabulary !


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