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North Korea reinterpreted on instant film

A joint exhibition by photographer Chris Barrett and researcher Gianluca Spezza

Under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, North Korea has made a conscious decision to be more proactive in the media world. In 2013 we saw the very first live tweeted image of the North Korean leader, from mainstream Western media.

Icons of Rhetoric (IoR) offered a different approach to documenting North Korea, merging established news media practices with more contemporary ones, drawing particular attention to social media.

“While researching an article about an Instagram account claiming to be the official outlet of North Korean news, I started to think about the visual representation of North Korea.

The idea of the project became a reflection on our engagement with modern media techniques, our consumption of images and our knowledge of this ‘most closed off country in the world’ that is the DPRK, all this interwoven with the notion of democratized propaganda.”

Chris Barrett, photographer and curator

By reinterpreting images that already exist in the public domain, Icons of Rhetoric played on an aesthetic of authenticity.

Read more about the Icons of Rhetoric research project.

Follow #IconsofRhetoric on social media:

@KazakhPilot (Gianluca Spezza)

Exhibition Resources

From our blog

As part of Icons of Rhetoric there is a segregated space within the Gallery which reveals more about the photographs and the theory employed behind the idea of reading North Korea through its own discourse. Including a range of publications on issues surrounding North Korea and photojournalism:

Detail from the exhibition Icons of Rhetoric, showing the associated publications with this show

One of these publications is Visual Politics and North Korea: Seeing is Believing by David Shim. In a similar way to the main exhibition, his book questions what we know about North Korea and how much of this is based on what we see. You can preview the book online here.

Detail from the publication Visual Politics, by David Shim

“David Shim’s Visual Politics and North Korea has arrived and will be on show in the exhibition”

— IOR 북한의수사학아이콘 (@iconsofrhetoric) June 12, 2015

Another  featured publication is Pyongyang, a graphic novel by cartoonist and animator Guy Delisle, which documents his two-month visit to the North Korean capital – giving the reader “an informative, personal, and accessible look at a dangerous and enigmatic country.”

Detail of the publication Pyongyang, by Guy Delisle

You can find out more about Pyongyang hereand preview the book here.

Detail form the exhibition Icons of Rhetoric, now open in the main gallery space

Icons of Rhetoric opened today, and has been featured on several sites across the web (as well as being featured in ArtRabbit’s openings this weekand on their Instagram feed!). Check out the links below:

» London Korean Links
» Redeye: The Photography Network
» Dodho Photography MagazineThe original feature on Dodho, which explores the process of making the photographs (and more) can be found here.

Open until Friday 10 July, Monday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm. For more information, visit the Icons of Rhetoric exhibition page.

Following on from the #NTUDEGREESHOW, our next exhibition opens on Thursday this week!

Detail from our upcoming show, Icons of Rhetoric

Icons of Rhetoric is a project created by photographer Chris Barrett and writer Gianluca Spezza which gives us a unique look at “the most isolated country in the world”; North Korea. The exhibition includes over 40 images which are crafted from 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. “People’s concerns about human rights in North Korea are perfectly valid and important issues but it’s dangerous for us to entirely 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 #rareglimpse reporting that seems to surround the country”

Take a look at a few photos of the set-up and exhibition below, and stay tuned for more info over the coming weeks. Be sure to follow @IconsofRhetoric on Twitter / Instagram and use #IconsofRhetoric to have your say.