It’s somewhat disappointing, however, that Kim opts for a conventionally paced, linear, talking head structure for such an unconventional figure. And yet, Paik’s light-heart spirit does thrum through these minutes, exciting our eyes not only by way of Paik’s self-deprecating humor, but his philosophical musings and his inventive spirit: Conducting a worldwide live stream, broadening the use of personal video equipment, and raising video art to a high art form.
We marvel at the artist’s elastic mind, and his unbridled creativity. Indeed, Kim does swift work connecting Paik’s artistic philosophy to his reality. He was a man without a homeland, a man haunted by his aversion to his business-minded father. And yet, the documentary has a habit of talking around Paik’s personal life, such as his father being a collaborator with the Japanese during their violent occupation of Korea.
It’s odd that Kim would omit this detail. That background doesn’t subtract from Paik’s artistic ethos but adds another texture upon his desire to dismantle oppressive systems. A similar qualm arises from the director’s reticence to discuss Paik’s personal life. At one point, one of the artist’s former neighbors shares how Paik’s marriage sounded tumultuous. It’s not altogether clear if “tumultuous” is a euphemism for violence, but we receive so few other details about his marriage—how Shigeko and he acted as partners—that the intimation dangles in the wind. Instead, Paik only exists in proximity to his work, which is probably how he’d like it.
Kristen Lovell, the Black transgender co-director of “The Stroll,” opens the film by watching footage of herself in the 2007 documentary “Queer Streets.” She wistfully sees the images of her younger self and recalls how she hoped the opportunity would provide her with an avenue for becoming a filmmaker. She wanted to tell the story of 14th street in New York City’s meatpacking district, what’s colloquially called the stroll, where queer sex workers lived, found community, and experienced danger while obtaining financial independence. In telling the area’s tale, unfortunately, Lovell neglects her own journey.