Art behind military lines: Korea’s Real DMZ Project – picture feast

Real DMZ Project 2013 pushes national boundaries, bringing contemporary art to the border of North and South Korea. 

From 22 August to 22 September 2013, approximately two dozen international contemporary artists exhibit their art for the Real DMZ Project 2013 on the border area near North and South Korea’s demilitarised zone (DMZ).

Yang Ah Ham, 'Wilderness – Within us - Socialized Nature', 2013, video, 20 minutes, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

Yang Ah Ham, ‘Wilderness – Within us – Socialized Nature’, 2013, video, 20 minutes, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

The Real DMZ Project 2013“, curated by Kim Sunjung, consists of two parts:

  • “The Real DMZ Project 2013: Borderline” is located in the border area near the DMZ in Cherwon-gun, Gangwon-do and the Lounge of the Artsonje Center in Seoul
  • “The Real DMZ Project 2013: From the North” takes place at the Artsonje Center in Seoul.
Magnus Bärtås, 'Madame & Little Boy', 2009, video, 27 minutes, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

Magnus Bärtås, ‘Madame & Little Boy’, 2009, video, 27 minutes, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

Origins of “The Real DMZ Project”

Established in 2011 by Artsonje in Seoul, the Real DMZ Project is a long-term contemporary art and research project focusing on the border between North and South Korea.

The first exhibition was held in 2012 and was located in a part of the border area near the DMZ, in a tourist section called the Cheorwon Security Tour Course.

The aim of the second exhibition in 2013 is to examine “the significance of ‘true’ demilitarisation” of the Korean Demilitarised Zone, according to the press release.

Heman Chong, 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', 2013, adhesive vinyl on outdoor wall fixture, 7 x 10 meters. Photo by Kim Jin-hee. Image courtesy DMZ.

Heman Chong, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, 2013, adhesive vinyl on outdoor wall fixture, 7 x 10 metres. Photo by Kim Jin-hee. Image courtesy DMZ.

“Borderline”

The “Borderline” exhibition includes artworks which explore the border between South and North Korea and directly deal with certain issues such as the Cold War, abduction and tourism.

Magnus Bärtås’ Madame & Little Boy is a video essay based on the true story of South Korean actress Choi Eun-Hee and film director Shin Sang-Ok, who were kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean agents and forced to live and make films in North Korea. Clips of their films are interspersed with images of atomic weapons.

Yang Ah Ham’s Tourism in Communism is a short video that shows an exuberant tour guide driving a horse-drawn carriage to bring South Korean tourists to an area in which the North Korean government permits tourists. The idyllic ride is contrasted with the dark landscape and propaganda posters.

Armin Linke, 'From border to center', 40 images, 2013, 2 books, lambda prints on mat photographic paper, 40 x 50 cm each. View of the Ryugong Hotel from Tower of the Juche Idea, Pyongyang North Korea, 2005 © Armin Linke. Image courtesy DMZ.

Armin Linke, ‘From border to center’, 40 images, 2013, 2 books, lambda prints on matt photographic paper, 40 x 50 cm each. View of the Ryugong Hotel from Tower of the Juche Idea, Pyongyang North Korea, 2005 © Armin Linke. Image courtesy DMZ.

Borderline” artists:

Hein-kuhn Oh, 'Let’s Try We Can Do It, the Army Infantry School', 2011, C print, 92 x 230 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Hein-kuhn Oh, ‘Let’s Try We Can Do It, the Army Infantry School’, 2011, C print, 92 x 230 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

“From the North”

“From the North” takes place on the second and third floors of the Artsonje Center, featuring works which included photography, video and installation.

According to the press release, the exhibition “investigates not only the ways in which the North is viewed from outside, but examines the relevant relationships that exist between the South and the North.”

Raqs Media Collective, 'The Door to the Sky', 2005, video loop, 3 minutes 30 seconds, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

Raqs Media Collective, ‘The Door to the Sky’, 2005, video loop, 3 minutes 30 seconds, still image. Image courtesy DMZ.

Several artists such as Seung Woo Back, Noh Suntag and Armin Linke created artworks based on their visits to North Korea.

Other artists, such as Magnum photographer Chien-Chi Chan, revealed the experiences of North Korean defectors. Even though the Taiwanese photographer does not speak Korean, he travelled with several North Korean defectors between 2007 and 2009 to document and film their arduous 5,000-kilometer journey. Starting from the border town of Tumen, China, they crossed over the mountain ranges of Laos, and into Thailand, finally reaching their resettlement in Seoul. The stakes are high, however. If caught by the authorities in China or Laos, they will be repatriated to North Korea and put into labour camps or executed.

Yale graduate Suyeon Yun is known for photographing communities of people whose lives are affected by war, such as Iraqi war refugees living in New Haven, Connecticut and American war veterans. Her work, Incomplete Journey (2004-2006), documents exiled North Koreans who are now settled in South Korea. The North Korean refugees had primary roles in the project, conducting interviews and scouting locations. For the work, they tried to “locate the Korean War and its living social context, nearly 55 years since the war had been stopped and forgotten” as stated on the artist’s website.

Sean Snyder,'평양, 북한 Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang, DPRK', 2007, reproduction photo on lightjet print, 105.4 x 95.4 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Sean Snyder,’평양, 북한 Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang, DPRK’, 2007, reproduction photo on lightjet print, 105.4 x 95.4 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

From the North” artists:

Seung Woo Back, 'Utopia-#001', 2008, digital print, (L) 150 x 180 cm / (R) 150 x 97 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Seung Woo Back, ‘Utopia-#001’, 2008, digital print, (L) 150 x 180 cm / (R) 150 x 97 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Suntag Noh, 'Red House # I-13', 2005, archival pigment print, 100 x 140 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Suntag Noh, ‘Red House # I-13’, 2005, archival pigment print, 100 x 140 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Suyeon Yun, 'Way to Eden, 서울' 2005, archival pigment print, 101 x 127 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Suyeon Yun, ‘Way to Eden, 서울’ 2005, archival pigment print, 101 x 127 cm. Image courtesy DMZ.

Susan Kendzulak

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Related Topics: Korean art, political art, Korean artists

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Comments

Art behind military lines: Korea’s Real DMZ Project – picture feast — 2 Comments

  1. good network application, keep the spirit of networking as part of personal and a countries security. i loved it

  2. Great report! I loved my time at the DMZ. The best was to fire up my iPhone ‘AroundMe’ app to see all those Wikipedia articles with the incidents over the term of the last 60 years.

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