The legendary Electronic Superhighway – Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Understanding a diverse nation through technology

Electronic Superhighway is one of the most noted works of Korean Nam June Paik artist. It illustrates how he interpreted a diverse nation through media technology. The Electronic Superhighway is a large installation, constructed with 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing.

Electronic Superhighway creates an overwhelming impact on visitors when they first see it. The wave of audio and visual media along with flashing neon lights make it awe-inspiring. It becomes challenging to concentrate on any state that the neon lights border or the video dialogues that play for each state.

Paik’s idea of the US states

Through this huge techno-sculpture, Paik not only articulated how he saw a diverse and multi-cultural country like the USA but also our future. Each state is represented through a video clip that conveys his understanding of it. Paik shows how our concept of the different states has been formed by film and television. While some states are represented by popular TV series or books, he uses his personal connections to depict some states. Kansas is represented by the Wizard of Oz. To Paik, Oklahoma is all about potatoes while composer John Cage represents his idea of Massachusetts, Arkansas shows footage by performance artist Charlotte Moorman, and Washington shows choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Missouri plays the movie “Meet Me In St. Louie”, Kentucky scenes from the Kentucky Derby, and
Indiana scenes from the Indy 500. In Iowa, the observer can see politicians campaigning during the Iowa caucuses, while Illinois shows rapid scenes of Chicago with an occasional photo of Lincoln. Colorado plays amateur sports, Mississippi scenes from the civil rights movement while Rhode Island only has a little tiny television. Lastly, scenes from “South Pacific” are shown for Hawaii, Alaska is represented by ice and snow and South Dakota displays George McGovern and not Mt. Rushmore, which arguably might be more recognizable.

These scenes and more were picked by Nam June Paik and show the US through his own lens.

Paik’s vision for the future

Paik named this video installation as Electronic Superhighway to express his vision for the future. He envisioned that in the future communication would be boundary-less due to advanced technology. It would be pertinent to mention that what Paik envisaged has now been manifested through the internet. In fact, the term is universally used today.

On another level, the highway system of America which connects the nation inspired Paik to create the Electronic Superhighway. The video clips run very fast to imitate how one sees the country through a moving car.

The Electronic Superhighway continues to amaze people due to its sheer size and various interpretations. It draws our attention to how our world is defined by technology and also the problems it creates like stereotyping our ideas or information overload. In a nutshell, through this video art, Paik has successfully represented our time.

Location of the Electronic Superhighway


Smithsonian American Art Museum
F St NW &, 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA
+1 202-633-1000

Photos of the Electronic Superhighway

Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum 2
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Close-up of Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Close-up of Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Close-up of Nam June Paik - Electronic Superhighway- Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Close-up of Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 close up
Close-up of Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 close up
Close-up of Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Video of the Electronic Superhighway

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