Installation view: Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, ARTSPECTRUM, Korea, 2016. Photo Byunghun Min / Halo Studio.


Triptych Light Box, 2016. 

Total dimension: 503,4 x 52,8 x 10 cm. Handcrafted white oak boxes, 36 black & white photographs taken in North Korea in 1951 and 2915. Printed on inkjet screen film, inserted between a transparent and a red acrylic sheet, LED lights, electrical cords. 

More than seventy years since the division of the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel, North Korea and South Korea are still officially at war since a peace treaty was never signed. The work engages borders both as apertures, specters, and rifts by invoking unrealized aspirations for peace while considering the durationality of the division of Korea, and the red cold war filter that continues to permeate perceptions of North Korea abroad.

Placed inside the triptych light box behind a red acrylic sheet are a series of juxtaposed photographs of North Korea. Half are taken by an international women´s delegation in 1951 at the height of the Korean War while the other half are taken by the artist when she went to North Korea and crossed the DMZ into South Korea as part of an international women´s delegation in 2015. At a distance, the light box resembles an abstract border and the photographs inside are not discernible. In order to interact with the images, one has to move into close proximity and become enmeshed in the red glow emanating from the light box, which intimates a shifting aperture: moving closer to it, one´s eyes have to readjust to the changing lighting conditions.

The work suggests that by engaging with the photographs from the two women´s delegations and their alternative depictions of North Korea within these shifting viewing situations, the aperture might allow for other modes of seeing beyond the red cold war filter that permeate images of North Korea. Reading the past and present together, the work suggests entering into conversation with specters of the past towards an aesthetics of recognition rather than a further cleaving of the psychic rifts produced by the prolonged state of exception on the Korean Peninsula.


The participants of Women Cross DMZ.

Guston Sondin-Kung.

Realized with support from Leeum Samsung Museum of Art and The Danish Arts Council.