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North Korean artist presents satirical exhibition

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Former North Korean propaganda artist, Song Byeok, has turned to lampooning the leaders he previously glorified, in an exhibition in Washington D.C from April 13th to 30th, 2012.
North Korean artist presents satirical exhibition
Former North Korean propaganda artist, Song Byeok, has turned to lampooning the leaders he previously glorified, in an exhibition in Washington D.C from April 13th to 30th, 2012. The artist grew up ordered to celebrate the subjects of his paintings, which used to feature the North Korean leader, Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. In 1994, when the “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung died, a great famine took hold of North Korea. Song Byeok and his father were forced to flee the country and into China in the desperate search for food. “After Kim Il-Sung died, our food rations disappeared and many people starved,” said Byeok. Whilst attempting to cross the border at the Tumen River, Byeok’s father was swept away and when he searched for him, the propaganda artist was retrieved by North Korean guards and tortured. The artist added, “when I was in prison, I realised there was something wrong with the North Korean government, so I wanted to go to South Korea. I was released because I was almost dead and they didn’t want to keep me.” Following his escape to South Korea in 2002, Byeok has been in Seoul working on the satirical art, parodying his former subjects where he used to praise them. His paintings now feature around the humiliation and emasculation of North Korea’s current and former leaders, and the sexual and political freedom of the country and its people. For example, one of his most famous pieces consists of Kim Jong-il dressed as Marilyn Monroe, replicating her iconic pose of holding down her dress. Another features a Korean boy with his arms spread toward the sky and with wings spread behind him. Now Byeok hopes the exhibition of twenty pieces at The Dunes, a gallery in Colombia Heights, will influence authorities within North Korea. “A lot of high official leaders are watching this and they are shocked, but they will be thinking about my work, my message. They’re not dumb,” he said.

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