Last week, I had the privilege of getting lunch with and visiting the art studio of Sun Mu, who was the star of the documentary that I saw at the DMZ Film Festival. The documentary is called "I Am Sun Mu", produced by Loose Luggage Media. The film chronicles Sun Mu's solo exhibition in Beijing from start to finish. Unfortunately, because of pressure from the North Korean government, his exhibit as closed down hours after opening.
Red White Blue was the title of the exhibit because it represents the flag colors of the six countries who have been historically involved within the Koreas: Japan, China, the United States, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea. Sun Mu's depiction of the relationship of these six countries reminds me of something I heard recently. At a conference called the Seoul Dialogue for Human Rights Conference, one of the guest speakers was Justice Michael Kirby, an Australian judge who lead the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Here, Justice Kirby said, "Never forget that the people of Korea never decided to divide the peninsula, it was decided for them in Cairo at a conference". That's scary to think about. A decision that was made for the Korean people has divided families for seventy years.
For me, Sun Mu's art represents Justice Kirby's quote. At his studio were dozens of works- both completed and in progress. When Sun Mu explained about his work, I noticed that he often said two words: ideology and play. He talked about the iron ideology of North Korea, something he was subjected to- something he propagated as a propaganda artist for North Korea. He also told us his vision was a North Korea that is free to interact and "play" with other countries. You can see children as a common motif within his art.
Sun Mu also has an excellent memory. When I asked him for an autograph, he remembered signing his name for me during the DMZ film festival. He also said he saw my blog post, which was exciting to hear (granted he googles his name often to check what's being written on him for the safety of his family). This time he wrote to me "Joyce, we meet again! It's nice to see you". It's funny to think that our paths may cross again.
I have no idea of how the art world works, but I wish Sun Mu's work could be featured in an exhibition in the states. It could be very powerful in how the world sees North Korea (people > politics).