NEW YORK (August 31, 2018) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) will exhibit the work of North Korean defector artist Song Byeok in an exhibit at the Minnesota Street Project, located at 1275 Minnesota Street in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. The exhibit, “Longing for Freedom,” will be on view from November 1st through November 30th, 2018. It is part of HRF’s Art in Protest program, an ongoing series of international art exhibitions and other events that showcase and popularize artwork that advances freedom and democracy. The opening reception for “Longing for Freedom” will take place on Thursday, November 1st from 6-8pm. The exhibit previously ran in Los Angeles and plans are being developed to take it to other cities
In addition to the work by Song Byeok, HRF will be showcasing an interactive art installation: the Flash Drives for Freedom campaign. The campaign is designed to disrupt dictator Kim Jong-un’s propaganda machine by empowering North Koreans with information from the outside world. Attendees are invited to bring their old USB drives to the exhibit and donate them to this cause. We will thoroughly wipe all donated drives before loading them with pop culture, news, and video content. With the generosity of donors from around the world and expertise from North Korean defector organizations, HRF has sent more than 60,000 USB sticks into North Korea. Donate your drives and join HRF’s campaign to raise awareness about the intersection of technology and human rights and the impact of sending news and information into closed societies.
“We are honored to exhibit the work of Song Byeok, an innovative artist whose work plays on the humorless propaganda of the Kim regime,” says Holly Baxter, Executive Director of the Art in Protest program. “Once an official state propaganda artist, Song has transformed his insider knowledge into an incisive critique of government repression, infused with absurdity and references to pop culture. He embodies the spirit of creativity and dissent that the Art in Protest program seeks out in artists around the world. Individuals like Song are key to shining a light on global authoritarianism and fostering meaningful change.”
Song Byeok has been called the “Andy Warhol of North Korea” for his colorful and provocative works. He spent seven years painting official propaganda posters for the North Korean government, with images of happy rural laborers and slogans lauding the country’s happiness and prosperity. But Song has also personally experienced the dark reality of life in North Korea—he has suffered famine, been arrested and tortured, and spent six months in a labor camp. Having finally managed to escape, he now uses his art to draw widespread attention to the abuses happening in North Korea. He masterfully leverages humor and allusion to create works that transcend boundaries, activating a universal human drive for freedom.
The Art in Protest program is HRF’s answer to the repression of creativity that authoritarian regimes impose. Dictatorships are built on misinformation meant to confuse and pacify their populations. Art can provide a vehicle for protest that targets this deception at its core, through an emotional immediacy that penetrates deeper than official statements or demonstrations. Recognizing the transformative potential of art, HRF has established the first program to support dissident artists around the world. By giving these individuals a broader platform for their work, we can help them make a lasting impact on the global struggle against authoritarianism.
For more information about this event, please contact Jim Warnock at [email protected]. For more information on the Art in Protest program, sponsorship opportunities, and media inquiries, please contact Holly Baxter at [email protected].