Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, MN, 2011
Inflatable golden statue of Kim Jung Il (North Korean Leader), Audio of “Arirang,” the most beloved Korean traditional song, NK propaganda songs
16 ft (H) x 8 ft (W) x 8 ft (D)
Dear Leader is an audio, mixed media sculpture exploring the relationship between ancient Confucian tradition and modern Communist rule in contemporary North Korean society.
The sculpture is based on Kim Jung Il, the leader of North Korea, and on the Arirang Festival. This annual gymnastic event is composed of 100,000 performers and dancers, and is the largest gymnastic event on the planet. It is designed to celebrate Kim Jung Il’s almost Godlike status, and to emphasize North Korean political propaganda and communist ideology.
“The Arirang Festival” is held in the Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the birth date of the Communist leader Kim Il-sung, “The Great Leader” and the father of Kim Jung Il, “The Dear Leader.” The two month festival, also called “the mass games”, is famed for the huge pictures and texts created by thousands of well-trained and disciplined school children holding up colored cards as well as for the complex and highly choreographed group acrobatics performed by tens of thousands of gymnasts.
The giant inflatable golden statue of Kim Jung Il, symbolizing both his godlike status, and also his concentration of economic power. The florescent pink silhouettes of female gymnasts and dancers circle the base of the golden statue. The figures represent the idea of Communist youth, nationalism, militarism, and unity.
Korean music is playing: “Arirang,” the most beloved Korean traditional song, and a song of “Kim Jung Il” which is a North Korean propaganda lyric describing him as a supernatural hero. The simultaneity and dissonance caused by the dueling audio components comments on connection and disjunctures between traditional Confucian beliefs and the current politics in North Korea.
Many in Western society see Kim Jung Il as an inexplicable anomaly, but from the traditional and isolated point of view of rural North Koreans the values of Confucianism directly support a kind of caste system and rigid traditional hierarchy with the King as demigod figure at the top – the father and the protector of the Nation.
Dear Leader is intended to pique interest and to provoke curiosity and exploration of this complex and multidimensional phenomenon, and at the same time to isolate it and to put into physical form, elements of its social, political, and religious origin.