Jeremy Hunter brings colour of North Korea's Arirang to group show at Atlas Gallery London

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 January 2013
A photo of a North Korean leader in a suit in a circular pattern surrounded by yellow and blue
© Atlas Gallery

Exhibition preview: High Resolutions, Atlas Gallery, London, until February 16 2013

The opening event of North Korea’s annual Arirang festival, a two-hour annual mass celebration held in the world’s largest stadium, sounds like it has been a noisy proposition since starting out a decade ago.

“It’s also the name of a traditional folk song representing the soul of Korea,” says Jeremy Hunter, a UNESCO-winning photographer who has made a series of huge pictures which, he says, are both large-scale tales of explosive performance art and a somewhat unsettling portrait of a country’s cultural and political landscape, laced with undertones of propaganda.

“It utilises a vast force of 100,000 young performers, including 50,000 teenagers and members of the military elite.

“Each holds a flipchart of more than 150 unique pages which combine to create giant mosaic images that change seamlessly during the performance.”

Each performer rehearses for six months, with 250 million man hours committed to each spectacle. Their pictures also have a story to tell.

“The images chart the history of Korea from colonial times, when the people suffered under Japanese occupation, to the present day and even into the future.

“At the same time, Arirang visually illustrates and praises the Workers’ Party of Korea, its armed forces and its leaders through the depiction of sometimes bizarre fables.”

Hunter’s pictures feature among work by more than a dozen artists in this group show, including Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“With the death of [former North Korea supreme leader] Kim Jong-Il last December, and the celebration not likely ever to be staged again, Jeremy’s images have been placed in the realms of historic documentation,” says gallery owner Ben Burdett.

“These images are probably the most important visual record of propaganda art of modern times.”

  • Open 10am-6pm (11am-5pm Saturday, closed Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @ATLASGallery.

More pictures:

An image of a photograph showing a sun rising above a North Korean green and yellow landscape
© Atlas Gallery
A highly colourful photo of thousands of people in purple and red against a mountain
© Atlas Gallery
A highly colourful photo of fish leaping above pieces of blue paper inside a stadium
© Atlas Gallery
A photo of rows of young women in purple dresses holding up flowery red pompoms
© Atlas Gallery
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