Archive: communist
How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Every year, North Korea holds a lavish and extravagant celebration for its ruler known as the Arirang celebrations. The Arirang celebrations can be classified in the same category as the Olympic celebrations. The audience is always treated to a highly choreographed show, the likes of which have only ever been seen at the Olympics.

The Arirang celebrations are a combination of dance, music, art, and patriotism, performed by tens of thousands of gymnasts and dancers. Not many people have ever photographed the Arirang celebrations, but French photojournalist Phillipe Chancel has. The Arirang festivities depict a well-known Korean song by the same name. The Arirang song tells the tale of a young couple that is forcibly torn apart. In this case, the song refers to the division of North and South Korea.

Over the past 20 years, Phillipe Chancel has been taking photographs in North Korea that explore the complex, shifting and ever-growing territory where art, photojournalism, and documentary meet. Phillipe is constantly evolving and so are his projects. His Arirang series focuses on the images that world is confronted with when they do an internet search of North Korea versus what actually happens in the state of North Korea. His photographs of the Arirang festivals offer audiences an unparalleled and uncontrolled image of a tainted version of North Korea.

Most of Chancel’s photographs feature dancers at the festival who move in such a synchronized and uniform fashion that from a distance, it appears as if you are watching the transitions on a TV screen. The Arirang festival offered Chancel some of the best visual materials for the photographic series, which he also titled Arirang.

Not only did pictures of the festival give an enhanced understanding of life in Pyongyang, but the photos also helped to give a glimpse of propaganda. The propaganda filled backdrops, and the colorful matching outfits make a silent but clear statement that has helped people gain a better understanding of the eerie nation.

The celebration also reflects the significant artistic capabilities that human beings are capable of while highlighting the tyrannical rule that North Korean citizens are made to endure in the 21st century. On one side, the photographs make North Koreans appear like ordinary people participating in a run of the mill celebrations. However, on the flip side, these people live a very different existential experience where they are segregated from the rest of the world. Luckily for us, photographers like Chancel provide an insider’s look into the most unknown country in the world.

This is Chance’s second North Korean installation which he released after his first project DPRK. DPRK brought him the international recognition that resulted in publications and exhibitions of his works in several prestigious publications and galleries.

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006


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What is the mystery behind these decapitated Lenin statues?

What is the mystery behind these decapitated Lenin statues?

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Krivyi Rih, 8 june 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Krivyi Rih, 8 June 2016

Sculptures of social influencers help the citizens of a country to stay connected to their history. While it is important for both good and bad events to be documented in history, some monuments suffer outright rejection. This is the case as it is in Ukraine today where there seems to be waging war against Soviet symbols. Niels Ackermann and Sebastien Gobert have turned their artistic lenses on Lenin, the leader of Russia in 1917. Contrary to other photographers who focus on the aftermath of war, these two are interested in the story behind the war. The journey began in 2013, after the conflict of Maidan which saw the toppling over and smashing of the city’s last Lenin statue.

Niels Ackermann takes the pictures and his colleague Sebastien Gobert tells the stories. Their quest to preserve history has taken them on a tour of western Ukraine, looking for the story behind fallen Lenins under the project banner “Lost in Decommunization”. In the same way that the rise of Lenin was documented, Niels Ackermann and Sebastien Gobert seek to document his fate as he goes down. Once held in high esteem, this project will trace his path from glory to an unlikely trophy.

To think of the 5000 statues of Lenin in Ukraine, way above 2000 in Russia and then imagine that more than half that number would disappear with independence is frightening for future generations who have no visuals with which to connect history. It is estimated that the civil unrest that began in 2013 took down a further 1200. In an effort to forget this part of their past, Ukraine banned everything that is connected to Russia; from flags, street names, road signs, and the massive statues. The destruction of statues dubbed “Lenin-fall” is symbolic to their disconnection from the past. While there might be concrete justification for this, the process is quite dysfunctional.

In their journey of looking for Lenin, Niels Ackermann and Sebastien Gobert have had to traverse through Ukraine in search of the fallen sculptures. They find some in museums, gardens, kitchens and private collections but each discovery is unique. Quite fascinating is the reaction they get from Ukrainians; for some, it is indifference but many others want the Soviet Legacy gone for good. If for nothing else, the work they do is an integrated piece of art that combines investigation, discovery, stories, and pictures. For future generations, these and such works will form the basis for a fascinating debate about the journey they are taking as a nation.

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Odessa, November 2015
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Artist Alexander Milov transformed this Lenin statue into Darth Vader outside an Odessa factory. Odessa, 21 november 2015.

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Dnipropetrovsk, November 2015
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Dnipropetrovsk, November 2015
The head of Dnipropetrovsk’s Lenin was given to the city’s National Historical Museum. It remains in storage as the institution does not currently have the resources to exhibit it. Dnipropetrovsk (now Dnipro). November 13, 2015

's head back together again by Yevgenia Belorusets, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, February 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – This nose belonged to a 28-foot-tall statue of Lenin, once the largest in Ukraine. It is now on display at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev as part of Yevgenia Belorusets’s installation “Let’s Put Lenin’s Head Back Together.” Kyiv, 5 february 2016.

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kharkiv
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kharkiv

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kharkiv
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kharkiv

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kharkiv
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kharkiv
A private collector has assembled a large collection of Soviet-era monuments, including dozens of Lenin statues. He stores them in his warehouse alongside materials for his glass business. Kharkiv. February 2, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kharkiv
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kharkiv

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kharkiv
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kharkiv

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Korzhi, 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – The village of Korzhi is attempting to sell its statue for $15,000 to fund repairs to the local kindergarten and school. The price is high, and they have had no offers. The local mechanic in charge of the sale expects he will eventually have to trade it for scrap metal for less than $3,000. June 3, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kramatorsk
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kramatorsk

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kramatorsk
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kramatorsk

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Kremenchuk, March 30, 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Kremenchuk, March 30, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Museum of Soviet Occupation, Kiev, 12 sept 2015
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Museum of Soviet Occupation, Kiev, 12 sept 2015

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev, February 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev, February 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Novobohdanivka. September 30, 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Novobohdanivka, September 30, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Shabo, Odessa region. November 21, 2015
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – A decapitated Lenin statue in Chabo. Chabo, Odessa region, 21 nov 2015

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Slavyansk
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Lenin monument in a municipal storage. Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine. 15 Sept 2015.

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Teplivka. July 26, 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Teplivka. July 26, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in Chernobyl, 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in Chernobyl, 2016
This Lenin head is more than two meters tall and previously stood on the site of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in Chernobyl. It is now stored in a room used by the facility cleaning staff. Despite the authorities claims of contamination, no significant levels of radiation were found. October 6, 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Zaporizhia, March 2016
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Zaporizhia, March 2016

Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert - Looking for Lenin - Zhytomyr
Niels Ackermann & Sebastien Gobert – Zhytomyr


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The million-dollar broken vase – Ai Weiwei

The million-dollar broken vase – Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei - Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995, Second panel of the triptych

Ai Weiwei - Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995
Ai WeiweiDropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995

The return of Ai Weiwei to China after living in New York City for more than a decade marked the beginning of a new form of art. No one knew all long he was thinking about the themes of transformation and destruction. He embarked on collecting ancient vessels with the aim of converting them into contemporary art pieces. Some people viewed this act as a way of collaborating with the ancient artists’ work, but some argued that it was misappropriating the artists’ work without their approval. This act provoked emotions since the urns were considered a form of consumer culture and heritage preservation, especially since he dropped it intentionally.

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Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright North Korean Interiors documents the unique architecture and the interiors of various regions of North Korea and its capital Pyongyang. Not many photographers get the opportunity to explore this isolated country owing to its closed state; however, Wainwright took the opportunity and ran with it. The interiors that he documented were very kitsch and retro as they were originally created to adorn important theaters and buildings that were designed during the Soviet era.

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Viewers mislead: These people are not famous

Viewers mislead: These people are not famous

Braco Dimitrijevic - Casual Passer-by I met at 11.09 AM, 1971
Braco DimitrijevićCasual Passer-by I met at 11.09 AM, 1971

Braco Dimitrijević’s Casual Passer-By series are a series of canvas based photographs created as from 1971. The works feature large-scale images of people that the artist met in the streets. Each of the pieces comes with the exact time and place where the artist met with the person. However, he did not always put the exact date. These images were then placed on some of the prominent positions on the facades of high traffic areas such as the museum, advertisement displays, or the underground train service.

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Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01
Eddo HartmannSetting the Stage: Pyongyang – Pyongyang women 01, 2014

North Korea is known for its fascination and terror in the same measure. Most of the world knows North Korea for its former leader Kim Jong II and the current Kim Jong Un. However, the fascinating thing about Pyongyang is its architecture.

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Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
Sea Hyun LeeBetween Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.

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