Common Ground offers a think-tank forum that argues for the necessity of exchanging arts and culture between North Korea and the rest of the world, especially the United States, as an alternative approach to the Korean conflict, while also reexamining the complex geopolitical, economic and cultural landscape in the region.
The symposium also serves as a preparatory measurement for Unify Korea, an international exhibition series of contemporary art, to be mounted in New York and other metropolitan cities around the world beginning in late 2014. The symposium is to find out how the exhibitions, in their contents and activities, are to be outlined and presented to the public in order to prevent inaccurate or misleading impressions.
The symposium is an attempt not only to embrace the public’s opinion and feedback about the exhibition series, but also to promote international public awareness and more comprehensive understanding of the geopolitical issues of the Korean conflict that is immediately related to securing world peace, and dismantling walls between different countries, cultures, and races.
Unify Korea Symposium - Parts 1 & 2
Speakers and Topics
Charles K. Armstrong
Director, Center for Korean Research at Columbia University
Professor Armstrong will present North Korea’s Engagement with the World. North Korea is often called “the most isolated country on earth.” In fact, from the time it was founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been involved extensively with the world beyond its borders. However, more than most countries, the DPRK has tried to control its external contacts and follow its own path of development. This approach to engaging the world has long been encapsulated by the slogan of “juche” or “self-reliance.” The meaning and content of juche has evolved considerably over the last four decades, and in recent years changes within and beyond North Korea have pointed toward a new and potentially even more active involvement in international affairs.
Professor in History and the College, University of Chicago
In his paper The Fruits of Engagement with North Korea, 1994—2008, Professor Cumings will argue that North Korea, unlike Iran for example, has responded well to American and South Korean overtures going back to the near-war of June 1994. The North agreed to freeze its plutonium complex and kept it frozen for eight years. In 1998-2000 Bill Clinton began to transform US policy toward the DPRK, resulting in an agreement to indirectly buy out North Korea’s medium and long-range missiles. Meanwhile, from 1998-2008 Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun radically restructured South Korea’s strategy toward the North, with many achievements—especially the huge Kaesong export zone, and important agreements signed at the second summit in October 2007 (but never implemented by Roh’s successor). All this flies in the face of commentary claiming that the North deals dishonestly, that it can’t be trusted to carry out agreements, or simply wants nuclear weapons, regardless of diplomatic overtures or consequences.
Ms. Soo Jung Hyun, PhD
Dr. Hyun has lived in New York since 2007 and organized several shows as a curator. She was invited as a juror for the Tehran Contemporary Sculpture Biennale (2007), and was invited as a curator for an exhibition, “Breathing” (2011), for the Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery. She was also an organizer for the “East Village Forum” (2010, 2011) at the Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery. She is currently working on the Korean American Archive project, sponsored by AHL Foundation and the Korean Cultural Service New York. Dr. Hyun is a member of the Advisory Board for The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery.
Yu Yeon Kim
Ms. Kim curated Corporeal/Technoreal, a media art project for the Poland Mediations Biennale in 2008; Los Puntos del Compas (The Points of the Compass) for the Fundacion Ludwig de Cuba and other satellite sites in Havana, 2008 (which traveled to the Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, Mexico City); and other curatorial projects. Yu Yeon Kim was an International Researcher and curator of the Liverpool Biennale 2004 in UK; the Commissioner and curator for Exotica Incognita, an exhibition of Latin American art for the 3rd Gwangju Biennale 2000 in South Korea; and a principle curator of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa, 1997-1998, for which she curated Transversions at the Museum Africa in Johannesburg.
Her recent projects include “Tong (通 link)”, 2011, a major international art exposition at Haeinsa Temple, South Korea; Magnetic Power, Media Art from South East Asia; and Fluid Form, Contemporary Art and Urban Design from Middle East in Seoul 2010-2011.
The founder of DMZ_Korea, an independent, non-profit organization in South Korea, Ms. Kim has organized international exhibitions exploring concepts related to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. These have included DMZ_2000 in New York, and DMZ_2005 — a series of international exhibitions at the Paju Book City, Heyri Art Valley, Odu Mountain Unification Observatory and Civilian Controlling Zone situated in the vicinity of the Korean DMZ. In 2006, Yu Yeon Kim curated Pyongyang Report an exhibition of international artists spanning three venues in Heyri Art Valley near the DMZ. In her presentation of Forbidden Zones, Yu Yeon Kim will share her curatorial experiences of organizing the international exhibition series, DMZ, over the past few years in New York and South Korea.
Under the title, Exploring Contemporary North Korean Art with a Focus on Chosonhwa, Professor Muhn will discuss the genealogy and aesthetics of Chosonhwa, traditional ink painting on rice paper, which is the most popular and revered art form in North Korea. Many paintings, including large-scale propaganda figure paintings, are created in this medium. During his recent research trips to Pyongyang, Professor Muhn visited Mansudae Art Studio, the largest art community in the world, viewed many art exhibitions, and interviewed several Chosonhwa artists. Professor Muhn found that North Korean artists have developed Chosonhwa into unique expressions not seen in other Asian countries. In his paper, Professor Muhn will explore how this development was possible, what aesthetic values were emphasized, and the degree to which artistic self-expression was permitted.
Artist / Director
A genius diplomat to some, a useful idiot to others, Norwegian director and artist Mr. Traavik has achieved a series of successful international artistic collaborations and gradually established a firm dialogue with North Korean cultural authorities based on mutual trust, respect and curiosity. He has even been authorized to negotiate cultural exchanges on North Korea´s behalf. In addition to bringing together North Korean and Western artists in groundbreaking and contemporary new collaborations, Mr. Traavik´s artistic interventions have been the subject of some of the most heated and high-level political debates surrounding any artist in his native Norway. In his presentation, Between Yes and No, Mr. Traavik will share some examples of his Korea-based work and describe how various responses to this work around the world challenge established notions of what constitute obstacles to an open and fruitful dialogue.
Ms. Farver is familiar with art scenes in South Korea. She was invited to panel discussions at Busan Biennale in 2010 and the 4th Gwangju Biennial Curatorial Conference in 2001, and has worked with Korean artists such as Sung-Hwan Kim and Kim Sooja. She also contributed an essay to a catalogue celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Korean Cultural Council in New York. Ms. Farver will lead the discussion with Professor Muhn and Mr. Traavik, exploring on the North Korean art situation and the conditions for exchanging arts and culture with North Korea.
Director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), United Nations Office
Director, Arizona State University Art Museum
Presenting Welcome Remarks
John L. Moore
Artist, KAF Advisory Board Member
Director, Co-Founder Korea Art Forum
Common Ground does not represent any governments and their administrative offices. It is organized by the newly established, New York based, not-for-profit independent private organization Korea Art Forum (KAF) under the collective guidance of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council that is composed of a group of accomplished artists, professionals, and scholars. The symposium is co-sponsored by The Center for Korean Research at Columbia University, NY.
KAF gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Arts Council Korea, Gallery Ho, and the members of the KAF as well as the generous contributions of individual philanthropists.
With the vision that geopolitical, economic, or cultural conditions of the Korean peninsula and history have the potential to shift the field of contemporary art, the Korea Art Forum (KAF) is a New York based non-profit independent organization committed to presenting thought-provoking practices by artists and curators of the Korean diaspora and others, for all audiences. The KAF organizes international exhibitions of contemporary art, lectures, seminars, and other public initiatives worldwide, fostering dynamic relationships between art, artists, and audiences. The KAF embraces experimental works of art, challenges conventional notions of art, and stimulates provocative conversations on contemporary art. The first initiative of the KAF is Unify Korea, which begins with the symposium, Common Ground, in March 2013.
Members of the Unify Korea Project Advisory Council help shape the Unify Korea project’s strategic, operational, and fiscal directions. The current members include Charles K. Armstrong, a professor and Director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University; Joel Carreiro, an artist and Director of Master of Fine Art program at Hunter College; Jane Farver, a curator and former LVAC Director of MIT List Visual Arts Center; Doug Hostetter, Director of the Mennonite Central Committee, UN Office; Taehyun Kim, an art consultant; Gordon Knox, Director of Arizona State University Museum; and John L. Moore, an artist.
Map & Location
Altschul Auditorium, International Affairs Building | Columbia University
International Affairs Building
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027