In 2013, at the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement, the art project entitled “the Line” was launched in the barbed wire fence near the Demilitarized Zone in the northwestern part of Korea in the same year. Having graduated from the Department of Printmaking of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Korean artist and curator Miri Park joined the preparation and establishment of the project for three consecutive years (from 2013 to 2015), and serves as an independent curator that participates in this project again in 2016.
Korean DMZ is a demilitarized zone, which is the pain of the Korean people, but it’s also a symbol of peace in Korea. It takes the military demarcation line specified by Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 as the boundary, separating North Korea form South Korea. “DMZ” is about 4 kilometers wide between the south and north equally separated by the demarcation line, and the east-west width is 248 kilometers. It is a buffer zone to prevent the formation of hostile acts, while it has also separated the people of the North Korea from South Korea for 50 years … Miri Park said, “This project is not participated in by the artists and curators, but a Korean wants to evidence the reality of South Korea and North Korea, and the pain of the segmentation of the North and South Korea so as toreflect on it again.”
Time: on January 17, 2017
Location: office of the CAFA ART INFO
Interviewee: Zhang Wenzhi
Contributor: Lin Jiabin
CAFA ART INFO: Would you like to introduce “DMZ project” project on South Korea and North Korea that you have participated in and planned four times?
Miri Park: Part of the Civilian Control Line around the DMZ which is the boundary between the South Korean people and North Korean people is open to the visitors and the responsibility lies with the administrative staff of the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization. The relationship between North Korea and South Korea before was very tense, and people could find soldiers everywhere in this region, if a Korean man crossed this area to North Korea, the soldiers would shoot him. In short, it was a very dangerous place. But now it is more and more open, and it even begins to open up to ordinary residents and tourists, and this area has become meaningful. But the barbed wire fence looked very lonely and meaningless, so the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization began trying to introduce some art projects. They invited college students to participate in it with their works, and it issued an ad that the award-winner could get a million KRW, in the end a few groups of students won the award, and it started the project with three or four works.
CAFA ART INFO: Are you the initiator of this project?
Miri Park: No, it was originally an idea by a division of the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization in the Gyeonggi-do government, which originally designed the place for many public sculptures at Imjingak Pyeonghoa-Nuri Park near the Demilitarized Zone. After graduating from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, I returned to South Korea to set up a company together with another two curators, to oversee the project in 2013, 2014 and 2015, invited artists and planned the theme of the project, while the government gave us money for the operation of the project. And then I left the company, since the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization intended to proceed the project in the original way while I would like to curate its exhibition in 2016 by myself. I thought it was a very important and meaningful project in Korea, so I contacted the head of Gyeonggi-do and explained my intention, I told them I was an independent curator so that it did not need a lot of money. In the end, they promised to make the project in 2016 together with me and it started in 2016. If I were to invite foreign artists it would cost a lot of money, so I mainly invited domestic artists to participate in it and some of the artists are unknown.
CAFA ART INFO: What expectation do you have while you are carrying out such a project and what art will involve the general public? Namely what purpose do you have for doing this event?
Miri Park: I think this project can make people more concerned about society and will pay more attention to the problem of South Korea and North Korea. When we went to the barbed wire fence, we were accompanied by soldiers every time. When I asked the soldiers to talk about their feelings and their understanding of these works of art, they said that the barbed wire fance was not of special significance or feeling for them, it was cold, but when they saw these works of art they would have some feelings, and get warm. My feeling is that it is not just a question of North Korea and South Korea, but it also involves a lot of problems including the segmentation or dispute of countries, religions, and so on.
CAFA ART INFO: What attitude does the neighborhood have about the project?
Miri Park: They did not expect to see the works of art in this place, they feel very kind and fresh, it is very interesting for them, there is not any other place except for our country that has a place with a barbed wire fence.
The old barbed wire is a symbol of the cold war and becomes a canvas for fine arts, based on which the artists at home and abroad created “155Mile Art Project” project, which does not affect the unity of the Korean peninsula, but I hope that this project can play the role of bridgehead so that the people of the South Korea living in the separated Korean peninsula, and people of other countries can use another perspective to see such a reality, while the project changes the barbed wire fence into a work of art, essentially I hope it makes the Korean troops stationed in this place happier with their boring and lonely military life. When the Korean Peninsula is unified, this exhibition will end. As a curator I hope that I can work with the domestic and foreign artists to build a barbed wire Museum on the 250-km barbed wire fence till the end of the exhibition, through this project I aim to give people an opportunity to understand the political regimes of the separated South and North of the Korean Peninsula.
CAFA ART INFO: What is the difficulty with the implementation of the project?
Miri Park: This land belongs to the army, so when we enter, it is necessary for us to explain why we come and we have to present certificates as demanded by the application. That is to say the implementation of this project is not particularly convenient, and it is very troublesome. Only a few spectators can see it, and one can only enter it once a day. In addition, I am worried that if the president changes next year, or is replaced by another political party, I am afraid that the new head of Gyeonggi-do will give up this project, which will affect it. If some companies and enterprises can support the project in addition to the government, it will be better.
“Curated by Miri Park, the Line project is extremely valuable, and it can be called a project that is growing. Along with the changes in people’s thoughts and patterns, this work will showcase that the special participation of the artist is a way to change the world and express their attitude. I am looking forward to having an opportunity to participate in this project in the future.”
About the Curator
Miri Park was born in Seoul, Korea in 1980 and graduated from the School of Fine Arts at the Seoul Women’s University, South Korea, with a bachelor’s degree. Park graduated from the Department of Printmaking of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2013 with a master’s degree.
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO