Exhibition questions sensational views of North Korea

An art exhibition opening at the Bonington Gallery is presenting images of North Korea on instant film.

An art exhibition opening at the Bonington Gallery is presenting images of North Korea on instant film.

The work uses a collaboration between smartphone photography and instant film to highlight the fragmented narrative that underpins our understanding of the much-cited most closed country in the world.

Icons of Rhetoric, by photographer Chris Barrett and researcher Gianluca Spezza, is open from 17 June to 10 July at the gallery on Nottingham Trent University's City site.

The exhibition includes over 40 images which are crafted by taking still images from North Korean television broadcasts by the country's state news network.

The pair use appropriated images developed on instant film, to comment on how the West uses such images to reinforce its own limited stereotypical views of the country.

"We're exploring the idea of 'seeing is believing' in the digital age," says Barrett, whose photojournalism has been used by the UK national press.

"People's concerns about human rights in North Korea are perfectly valid and these are important issues, but it's dangerous for us to base our understanding on a narrow binary image of good and bad, often focused on sensationalised information skewed in favour of click-bait ridicule or ridiculous hearsay.

"It's true North Korea is a very difficult place to cover but this should not allow for the 'anything goes' rare glimpse reporting that seems to surround the country.

"Under Kim Jong Un's leadership, the country has made a conscious decision to be more proactive in the media world. It has increased its number of programmes and broadcasts.

"Also there are hordes of academics, reporters, business people, tour agencies and others with vested interests who have been working and visiting North Korea for decades. So these rare glimpses are not so rare."

The exhibition includes two large lit up portraits of past North Korean leaders who watch over the exhibition. An arrangement in the middle symbolises the mystery and myth of the country, evoking bodies lying in state. A smaller, segregated room reveals more about the photographs and theory employed behind the idea of reading North Korea through its own discourse.

Chris Barrett will give a talk on his exhibition at the Bonington Gallery during the Association of Photography in Higher Education conference, which is co-hosted by Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham between 1-3 July.

Exhibition questions sensational views of North Korea

Published on 17 June 2015
  • Category: Press; School of Art & Design

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