In 2003, North Korea released a comedy film called Our Fragrance, which polarized Korean and Western cultures, particularly in regards to food. The film is premised on the importance of defending the Korean tradition from foreign impositions, reflecting North Korea’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003. The film uses kimchi as that which symbolizes cultural homogenization, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism by projecting two interrelated points: first, kimchi is an indigenous Korean tradition that needs to be preserved to reify national identity; and second, kimchi signifies revolutionary ideals of defending the country from foreign powers.
Our Fragrance defines state identity and the governing Juche ideology (North Korea’s appropriation of communist thought) through the consumption of cultural products such as food and clothes. The visuality of such cultural products in the film serves to differentiate, disparage, and refute the imposition of Western imperialism in the DPRK. By asserting the nationalist discourse of consuming North Korea’s traditional culture, the film maps out the binary opposition of moral/immoral, Korean/Western, and communism/capitalism for the North Korean audience.
Paradoxically, Our Fragrance blurs the apparent binary oppositions by presenting North Korea’s active engagement with the international community through the proliferation of its cultural goods. While maintaining national identity is the overarching theme of the film, there are also competing visions of cosmopolitanism and cultural exchange that are equally considered to be the revolutionary ideals of North Korea’s current political agenda. In this presentation, I examine the discourse of kimchi in Our Fragrance as that which opens up the possibilities of understanding North Korea’s political culture and the state’s persistent engagement with the international community to legitimate its statehood and perpetuate national division.
Associate Professor and Chair Tom McDonough‘s essay “The Chinese City Between Dream World and Catastrophe,” addressing the work of artist Cao Fei, appears in the current issue of Parkett. Click here for the full text.
Anthony McCall (born 1946) is a British-born artist known for his ‘solid-light’ installations, a series that he began in 1973 with his seminal Line Describing a Cone, in which a volumetric form composed of projected light slowly evolves in three-dimensional space. His work’s historical importance has been internationally recognized in such exhibitions as Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-77 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2001-2); The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies at the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria (2003-4); The Expanded Eye at the Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland (2006); Beyond Cinema: the Art of Projection at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (2006-7); The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Projected Image at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC (2008); The Geometry of Motion 1920s/1970s at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); and On Line at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010-11). McCall’s work has also been exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (2004); Tate Britain, London, England (2004); Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France (2006); Musée de Rochechouart, France (2007); SFMoMA, San Francisco (2007); Serpentine Gallery, London, England (2007-8); Hangar Bicocca, Milan, Italy (2009); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2009); Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand (2010); Sprueth Magers/Ambika P3, London, England (2011); the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2011); the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (2012); and the Faena Arts Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2013).
Viktor Tausk was an early member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society whom Freud described as “clever and dangerous.” In his now famous paper „On the Origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia,” Tausk discussed a rare variant of schizophrenia in which patients hallucinated persecution by a mysterious cinematographic machine. As Kirkwood argues, the paper surreptitiously offered the first psychoanalytic theory of film by explaining how a machine-and particularly an image-machine-could produce conditions of subjective identification, even if only in cases of extreme pathology. This was a threatening proposal to Freudian orthodoxy, as it not only drew an analogy between psychoanalysis and the cinema, which had long remained a forbidden object for members of Freud’s circle but also seemed to resolve, at least partially, the long-standing agon between the psychophysiological apparatus and the symbolic operations of the ego.