Monday, July 17, 2006

OpenDemocracy.Net and North Korean Art

Over at OpenDemocracy.Net, Jane Portal has an article that explores the role of art in North Korea: What does a totalitarian regime expect from its artists?

Among the more interesting points was that since the 1960s, North Korean art was/is informed by a philosophy called Juche:

"Juche is usually translated as "self-reliance", although the academic Dae-sook Suh describes it in practise as "nothing more than xenophobic nationalism".

This school divides art into 2 types:
"Peoples' art" reflecting the needs of the masses.
"Reactionary art" reflecting the ideology of the exploiting class.

The whole article has several interesting elements worth checking out. Portal's final sentiments are:

"...there is no uncertainty at all expressed in North Korean contemporary art, no individual hopes or expressions, no mystery. As Kim Jong-il said: "A picture must be painted in such a way that the viewer can understand its meaning. If the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning, no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they cannot say it is a good picture.""

It's an interesting reminder to me, as a writer and artist, of what kind of narrow world we can live in. We'd be the poorer for it.

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