Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Pyongyang Metro 8
  • Hans-Christian Schink
    born 1961
    born: Erfurt, Germany
  • Pyongyang Metro 8, 1989
  • Where object was made: Pyongyang, North Korea
  • chromogenic color print
  • Image Dimensions Height/Width: 33.5 x 50 cm
    Image Dimensions Height/Width: 13 3/16 x 19 11/16 in
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 45 x 59 cm
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 17 11/16 x 23 1/4 in
    Mat Dimensions: 20 x 25 in
  • Museum purchase: Shirley Cundiff Haines and Jordan L. Haines Art Acquisition Fund
  • Not on display
  • 2012.0170
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
“Holding Pattern: New Works at the Spencer Museum,” Sep-2014, Susan Earle and Cassandra Mesick
Throughout his career, photographer Hans-Christian Schink has explored clashes between human nature and culture, especially with respect to how German reunification affected the built environment. As a citizen of East Germany, Schink was granted access to spaces and places in the Eastern Bloc that, for much of the world’s population, could exist only in the imagination. In this series, for instance, Schink captured the strange excess of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR, also known as North Korea), by documenting the warren of subway tunnels running underneath its capital city of Pyongyang. Each station is named after a revolutionary event and is lavishly outfitted with polished marble floors, ornate chandeliers, tile mosaics, and painted murals of monumental scale, effectively transforming them into underground palaces.
In these photographs, Schink captures both the gleaming, cavernous corridors as well as the public art that reifies the country’s communist regime. One mural portrays former President Kim Il-sung, the founder the DPR, proudly surveying a wheat field; the juxtaposition of this image with widespread reports of endemic famine throughout the country renders the scene particularly harrowing. The second work in this series evokes a more muted and somber tone, reflecting rumors that this particular station, Kwangmyŏng (광명), serves as the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung and has consequently been closed to the public since 1995. A decidedly jovial energy permeates the mural photographed in Pyongyang Metro 9, which depicts President Kim Il-sung leading a celebratory throng of children through the streets.