REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013: From the North
August 22 – September 22, 2013
Art Sonje Center
REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013: From the North
Art Sonje Center is pleased to present REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013 : From the North from August 22nd to September 22nd in 2013. The REAL DMZ PROJECT aims to be much more than just an exhibition by examining the significance of ‘true’ demilitarization in relation to the ironies inherent within of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The hope is that it will operate as an ongoing platform to develop and sharing a vast array of investigation and research. Initiated in 2011, the REAL DMZ PROJECT took shape as an exhibition in 2012, situated in a selection of the border area near DMZ, engaging a number of sites that are part of the so-called ‘Cheorwon Security Tour Course’.REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013 is composed of two parts of REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013 : Borderline at the border area near DMZ, Cheorwon-gun and REAL DMZ PROJECT 2013 : From the North at Art Sonje Center, Seoul.
This exhibition, on the second and third floors of the Art Sonje Center, investigates not only the ways in which the North is viewed from outside, but examinines the relevant relationships that exist between the South and the North. It suggests ways in which we might rethink our relationship with North Korea, a place that is virtually impossible to visit, and which sometimes feels like an entirely foreign country, though it nevertheless remains an inextricably linked aspect of Korea’s national identity.
The works exhibited in Art Sonje Center feature photographs and films that incorporate a diverse range of scenes from the North, giving us new ways and new opportunities to reflect upon our own view and standpoints. The current relationship between the South and the North is inflexible and the future is somewhat difficult to foresee. The previous administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun attempted a ‘Sunshine Policy’, which made visits between two easier. Artworks by NOH Suntag and Seung-woo Back feature in the exhibition, who have both traveled to the North and documented life across the border first-hand. Their photographs, which have passed through censorship by the government in the North, reveal the ways in which the state would like to be seen by us, and others. In his work, Utopia, Back reconstructs and reassembles propaganda photographs produced by North Korea through digital manipulation. This is also the case with Back’s Blow up, where parts of the photographs which had been cut and obscured through censorship are redeveloped and then enlarged into a bigger image. On the other hand, NOH Suntag’s Red House deploys a journalistic approach, and presents the artist’s views that “North Korea is an international music star who knows the most flamboyant way to play a duet between concealing and revealing”. The exhibition also features a selection of works by Armin Linke, who photographed North Korea during a visit in 2005. Hiroshi Minamishima also documented scenes in the North relatively recently, at a time when passage was being blocked due to worsening relations.
Unlike artists who have visited North Korea in person, Sean Snyder works with images that have been collected from the Internet. Being interested in the ways in which images of North Korea are portrayed in the media, Snyder provides the viewer with cropped photographs of the feel of Jong-il Kim, wearing his notorious ‘height-boosting’ shoes. Beginning with images of North Korea, the exhibition moves towards reflections upon the experiences of North Korean defectors. This is immediately visible in Chien-Chi Chang’s film, which records the kind of rugged journey so typical of any escape from North Korea, in this case fleeing through China before finally arriving in a relative safe haven. A work by Suyeon Yun also appears here, depicting the experience of people who have escaped the North and then resettled in the South.
The final chapter of the exhibition presents artworks that hover around the border between the South and the North. Madame & Little Boy by Magnus Bärtås creates an overlap between the ideology of the Cold War and the images of Eun-hee Choi, the actress who was abducted and forced to live and work in North Korea. Tourism in Communism by Yang Ah Ham is portraying a Mt. Gumgang tourist area coachman was filmed in 2005, on site where the North Korean government gives the South Korean tourists permission to visit. Power Passage by Park Chan-kyong is composed of a film that places, side-by-side, scenes of work in the dockyards of the United States and the Soviet Union, and the underground tunnel dug by North Korea, as well as other relevant texts and images. Door to the Sky, a film by Raqs Media Collective, is also featured, consisting of a door that looks like it is part of the wreckage of a destroyed airplane, opening itself up to the sky, addressing the limitations of power or force, while also revealing the almost miraculous resilience that certain materials hold against their own destruction.