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201704 exhibition

Main Bar (April 01 - May 05, 2017) 

Our trip to Pyongyang consisted almost entirely of carefully scheduled activities, with guides that rarely left our side outside of the hotel. Still, it was a rare opportunity to observe the people in this reclusive country and to think about their lives.

The disconnection from the outside world is palpable. In this city, time and space are defined by propaganda-driven activities like visits to monuments and performances. The enormous clockwork mechanism of mass dance practices and labor duties to serve the nation never ceases to spin. It is fascinating, and not a little unsettling.

The city planning is monolithic, with apartment block after apartment block stretching out in an order so neat and structured it continues to haunt the mind. Advertising and other signs of commercial activity are extremely rare. The ever-present contrast between tightly restricted self-expression and an over-enthusiasm to defend government propaganda challenges our concepts of freedom and personal fulfillment. Here, one must at all times be of a single body and mind with the regime.

Is this loyalty sincere or a product of fear? Many of the people we encountered seemed curious about us, yet were scared to look at us for long. Did they - could they - imagine other ways of life?

Eight days was a short time to discover Pyongyang, yet it was a life-changing experience. It challenged everything I knew and took for granted.

On this journey, I learned something about the complexity of the human condition and about what everyday life can look like in places very different from those we know. I hope my photographs will inspire thought, not only about the lives of the citizens of Pyongyang but also about the feelings and preconceptions that we harbor within ourselves.

Ciel Liu / Photographer, Freelance Producer and Documentary Filmmaker

Ciel started her career as a reporter for the mandarin television channels in Singapore. After the completion of her MA in Photography and Electronic Arts, in Goldsmiths, University of London, she works on a freelance basis to travel and create contents for television channels and clients in different countries.
Currently she is working extensively with traditional craftsmen and culture in Japan, and documenting the Outsider artists in Cuba. She hopes to discover meaningful stories, and create work that both 'disturbs' and 'soothes', which could create a critically self-aware fusion between societal discourses and art. It is also her hope to raise questions and stimulate imaginations about our increasingly complex societies, capturing and mesmerizing in human behaviors and their reality, oddity as well as impact in various parts of the world.

Exhibition Committee



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