Korea Report: Art+Politics=BAD

At least, it can stir up a lot of trouble for artists who wish to comment on North Korea.

Lovely, isn’t he?

With plenty of room for irony, some artists are highlighting the difference between the smiling pomp of North Korean state cultural institutions and the hunger and isolation faced by average North Koreans. They popped up on ArtCal Zine’s radar as well as the International Herald Tribune’s yesterday, and both artist’s works center around the concept of juche.

For our purposes, juche is a state ideology that emphasizes self-sufficiency and isolation, but all the people’s happiness with the ideology. One of its stated goals is ‘molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action.‘ Somehow I don’t think these artists works would count as constructive, despite their use of juche motifs.
ArtCal reccomends the film The Juche Idea, saying “[it] delves into the isolationist state’s rich history of state-sponsored and propagandist film making (in the 1970s, Kim Jong published a treatise on cinema) and comes out with what appears to be a suite of shorter films strung along a playful meta-narrative of a South Korean video artist making work on a special North Korean residency program. Unlike so many contemporary artists who show nothing but naked contempt for such difficult topics, Finn approaches his with a unique humor and wit.”
Similarly, the ‘faceless’ artist Sun Mu was highlighted in the International Herald Tribune for the paintings that he has done since escaping from North Korea. Remaining unphotographed to prevent familial reprisals in North Korea, Mu has painted juche ideals so well that he was almost arrested because in South Korea they have a law against propaganda and didn’t understand the irony intended.
This reads and is titled, We are all happy children!, from a popular song.
The use of humor to empty juche images of significance is powerful, and hopefully understood in Korea and elsewhere.

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