North Korean life like Truman Show: Photography by Back Seung Woo

GALLERY SHOW CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRPAHY KOREAN ARTIST

South Korean artist Back Seung Woo’s two new photographic series allow audiences to peer inside the reclusive and mysterious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Blow Up”, on at Tokyo’s Misa Shin Gallery until 16 April, presents a rare glimpse into life in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

"Blow Up" exhibition view, 2011, Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

“Blow Up” exhibition view, 2011, Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back’s solo exhibition at Misa Shin Gallery presents works from his series “Blow Up” and “Utopia”, each taking the city of Pyongyang as its subject. Forty pieces from “Blow Up” cover one entire gallery wall, and these are presented alongside two pieces and a 3D model from his “Utopia” series.

Click here to read more about Back Seung Woo’s “Blow Up” on Misa Shin’s website.

Blown up photographs show real North Korea

The photographs that make up the basis for this series were taken by Back on a visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2001. The artist was only allowed to photograph in carefully constructed and managed situations and locations and his film was censored, destroyed or confiscated by authorities upon leaving the country.

Back later noticed there were small but revealing details in the photographs that showed something of the real Pyongyang. He decided to enlarge them, creating sometimes blurred photographs that have a photojournalistic feel.

Back Seung Woo, 'Blow Up', 2005-2008, digital print, 265 x 504 cm, set of 40 pieces. © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, ‘Blow Up’, 2005-2008, digital print, 265 x 504 cm, set of 40 pieces. © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Pyongyang film set for Truman Show

For the artwork in “Utopia”, Back has carefully manipulated North Korean propaganda photographs from 1970s to make Pyongyang, a city that he says “looked like a film set for The Truman Show,” even more surreal.

Back Seung Woo, 'Utopia-#003', 2008, digital print, 87 x 70 cm (up: 44 x 70 cm, down: 43 x 70 cm). © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, ‘Utopia-#003’, 2008, digital print, 87 x 70 cm (up: 44 x 70 cm, down: 43 x 70 cm). © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, 'Utopia-#007', 2008, digital print, 70 x 105 cm (left: 70 x 50 cm, right: 70 x 55 cm). © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, ‘Utopia-#007’, 2008, digital print, 70 x 105 cm (left: 70 x 50 cm, right: 70 x 55 cm). © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, 'Utopia #011', 2008, digital print, 150 x 205 cm. © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

Back Seung Woo, ‘Utopia #011’, 2008, digital print, 150 x 205 cm. © Back Seung Woo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

More on Back Seung Woo

Born in South Korea in 1973, Back lives and works between Seoul and London. Major group exhibitions include “Photography Now: China, Japan, Korea” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, 2009) and “Dreamlands” at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2010). A solo exhibition at Artsonje Center (Seoul) is planned for 2011. Back’s artworks are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere.

Click here to visit Back Seung Woo’s artist website.

"Blow Up" exhibition view, 2011, Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

“Blow Up” exhibition view, 2011, Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo. Image courtesy Misa Shin Gallery.

KN

Related Topics: Korean artists, photography, gallery shows, Japanese venues

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