On one hand the striking images of UNESCO-winning photographer Jeremy Hunter’s ‘ARIRANG’ series documents a complex feat of storytelling via performance art. On the other hand, it is an unsettling portrayal of the cultural and political landscape of North Korea, and a depiction of an extreme human experience centred on propaganda.
Forming the main body of work at ATLAS Gallery’s January Group Show, Jeremy Hunter’s art reportage brings to life the two-hour mass-celebration that is ‘ARIRANG’, via a series of 5ft x 3ft photographs. ‘ARIRANG’ is a vastly important show in North Korea that has been staged outdoors in the world's largest stadium - in Pyongyang - every August and September for the past ten years.
Jeremy Hunter explains: “ ‘ARIRANG’, also the name of a traditional folk song representing the soul of Korea, utilises a vast force of 100,000 young performers including 50,000 teenagers and members of the military elite. Each holds a flipchart of more than 150 unique pages which combine to create giant mosaic images that change seamlessly during the performance.”
“The images chart the history of Korea from colonial times when the people suffered under Japanese occupation, to the present day and even into the future. At the same time ‘ARIRANG’ visually illustrates and praises the Workers Party of Korea, its armed forces, Kim Il-Sung ‘the Eternal Leader’ and Kim Jong-Il ‘the Dear Leader’, through the depiction of sometimes bizarre fables surrounding these figures.”
The show forms a major part in each performer’s life, with each devoting six months and 250 million man hours to rehearsals each year.
ATLAS Gallery owner Ben Burdett, says: “Jeremy’s series of images is probably the most important visual record of propaganda art of modern times. And with the death of Kim Jong-Il last December, and the celebration not likely ever to be staged again, his images have been placed in the realms of historic documentation.”
As a photo-journalist, Jeremy has taken a special interest in documenting the world’s festivals, rituals, ceremonies and celebrations, especially global mass-gatherings, which has taken him to 65 countries across five continents. In 2011 his archive of work - Let's Celebrate 365 - was transmitted outdoors by the BBC on every big screen in the UK.
Other photographers to be included in High Resolutions include Rene Burri, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, John Dominis, William Klein, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Cindy Sherman, Herbert Ponting, Ruth Orkin, Weegee, André Dienes, Lillian Bassman, Eve Arnold, Gered Mankowitz, Nick Brandt, Paolo Ventura, Steve MacLeod, Nathan Harger, Thomas Hoepker, and Frauke Eigen.