Above the Line exhibition gives a rare look into life inside North Korea
North Korea - or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as it is known locally - is one of the most isolated countries in the world. Few foreigners are able to visit it and few North Koreans are able to travel abroad. Our knowledge of this singular state is therefore particularly limited. This April, the British Council and Hong Kong Arts Centre join hands to provide a view of the people and the country at the Above the Line: People and Places in the DPRK exhibition, showcasing large-scale colour photographs by the acclaimed photojournalist Nick Danziger from the UK, with the aim of informing future discussion about this isolated state.
Debate about North Korea often centres around the idea of it being an abstract, geopolitical entity – a land of incomprehensible systems and beliefs. But North Korea is a real country of 23 million inhabitants, and this exhibition shows people doing ordinary things – women bathing in the sea, a man waiting at a tram stop, students walking down the street – as well as less ordinary sights such as a much-decorated hero of the Korean War on his way to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in his Mercedes, dancers practising in the car park before a performance at the Arirang Games, and a glimpse into the routines of workers on a collective farm.
‘In a multicultural city like Hong Kong, North Korea often evokes heated discussions amongst the media and the public. We hope the Above the Line exhibition will add new and fresh perspectives to the debate. People-to-people dialogue between the UK and North Korea was generated when the exhibition opened in London and we are keen to extend this opportunity to Hong Kong with an objective to foster deeper cultural relations between Hong Kong and the world through this extraordinary exhibition,’ said Meijing He, Head of Arts and Creative Industries at the British Council in Hong Kong.
Connie Lam, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, added, ‘to promote cultural exchange through art has long been the Hong Kong Arts Centre’s interest, while photography is one of our favourite art forms to showcase in our programming. This exhibition is therefore especially meaningful to us, as North Korea is one of the few Asian countries that the HKAC has never got in touch with. I truly appreciate Mr Nick Danziger for bringing the once-considered ‘isolated’ and ‘exotic’ faces of the North Korean people to the general public in Hong Kong; and I believe that this is an important first-step towards a better mutual understanding between the two places.’
The photographs were taken by Nick Danziger who, together with the writer Rory MacLean and the curator Andrea Rose, travelled to North Korea in August 2013 under the auspices of the British Council, and with the support of the Central Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, DPRK. They visited the cities of Pyongyang, Nampo, Wonsan and Sariwon, each day taken up with meeting people and encouraging them to talk about their lives, so that a picture emerges of individuals whose smallest pleasures are not all that different from people elsewhere, however strange or limiting their circumstances may appear to us.
Nick Danziger and the Team returned from the DPRK assignment with a collection of 7,000 photographic images. A selection of the collection will be showcased at the Above the Line exhibition. Details of the exhibition are as follows:
Above the Line exhibition: People and Places in the DPRK
Date: 9-28 April 2015
Time: 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
Venue: Experimental Gallery, 3/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbor Road, Wan Chai
Details of guided tours:
Date: 18 and 25 April 2015
Time: 2.00 p.m. or 4.00 p.m.
Venue: Experimental Gallery, 3/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbor Road, Wan Chai
For more information of the exhibition and the guided tours, please visit http://www.britishcouncil.hk/en/programmes/arts/ATL
About Nick Danziger
Nick Danziger is a photographer and filmmaker. Awards for his work include an honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society (2007), the World Press Photo first prize in the single portrait category (2004) and the Royal Geographical Society's Ness Award (2000), while his film about Afghanistan, War Lives & Videotape, won the Prix Italia in 1991 for best television documentary. His photographs are held In museum collections, including the National Portrait Gallery, London; Théatre de la Photographie et de l'Image, Nice, the Morgan Library and Museum, New York; National Media Museum, Bradford; and Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow.
About Andrea Rose
Andrea Rose OBE, CMG, was a former Director of Visual Arts and Strategic Programmes at the British Council. During her tenure at the British Council, she represented the UK on the UNESCO Cultural Commission, UK Commissioner for the Venice Biennale and in 2011 was awarded the Russian State Medal of International Co-operation. Andrea Rose has a Masters Degree in History of Art from the University of Minnesota and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canterbury. She is the author and editor of a number of publications, including Gagarin in Britain (2011) and Above The Line (2014).
About Hong Kong Arts Centre
The Hong Kong Arts Centre (HKAC)—a self-financed, non-profit organisation—is widely recognised as an arts and culture incubator for Hong Kong. For the past 37 years, the HKAC has played a unique role in engaging the community with art, with a focus on promoting contemporary art and culture in Hong Kong and abroad through exhibitions, art education and related programmes. The HKAC’s main building is situated in Wanchai, with facilities including a cinema, theatres, galleries, classrooms, studios, restaurants and office space. The HKAC provides a wide range of programmes on performing arts, visual arts, film and video arts, public art projects, conferences, art festivals and more, connecting the arts to the general public.
The HKAC is also appointed by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) as the Main Operator of the Mallory Street project in Wanchai, managing the ‘Comix Home Base’ (CHB) under a five-year contract. The CHB opened in July 2013 and the HKAC is operating the CHB as the platform for exchange and interaction for the comics industry, locally and internationally.
The HKAC’s education arm, the Hong Kong Art School (HKAS), is an accredited institute staffed by a group of dedicated artists and with multiple sites, including the Main Campus on the 10th floor of the HKAC main building, Pao Haung Sue Ing Campus in Shau Kei Wan and the Chai Wan Campus at Youth Square. The focus of its award-bearing curriculum lies in four core academic areas—Fine Art, Applied Art, Media Art, and Applied Theatre and Drama Education—with academic levels ranging from Higher Diploma, Professional Diploma, Bachelor’s Degree to Master’s Degree. Short courses and outreach projects of the HKAS run parallel to the award-bearing curriculum and span an even wider variety of artistic disciplines.
For more information, please visit: http://www.hkac.org.hk/
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.
We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. In Hong Kong, we have been doing this since 1948, giving people opportunities to learn, share and connect worldwide.
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For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://blog.britishcouncil.org/. To learn more about British Council in Hong Kong, please visit www.britishcouncil.hk and www.facebook.com/BritishCouncilHK.