For this project I have decided to create a fashion arts film that has a sole focus on the artist Sun Mu. As a North Korean defector, Sun Mu embraces his experiences of North Korea and his feelings towards it after having fled from there, he uses these experiences and emotions to fuel and create narrative ‘Propaganda’ art.
Having watched the I AM SUN MU documentary, I was able to gain an understanding of his experiences, reasons for leaving North Korea and the new obstacles he faces as a consequence of having escaped through his own words. As a trained artist within the military group in North Korea, Sun Mu applies the same style of poster and mural work produced for the army to his new works as a means of parodies to the North Korean regime. Sun mu is an artist with a hidden identity because to produce the art he does is of high risk and can be perceived as a mockery of the regime.
Defection in itself is punishable through death, and in order to protect his family that is left behind in North Korea, Sun Mu must maintain an invisible identity much like Banksy. This is something that is very frustrating for an individual that has been renowned for these amazing works he desires to reach out to people and to be able to show himself, to say I am Sun Mu. However, this cannot be done without putting himself and his family at risk of death. Having witnessed and listened to these frustrations and obstacles, I want to use the power of fashion film and communication to help and communicate his message and artworks to a nation that is so unaware of its reality.
Sun Mu’s artwork is of high importance as within the regime the Kim’s (leaders) are only allowed to be painted and portrayed in a certain way that is approved and within their traditional Mao outfit. However, Sun Mu creates these artworks in his own style, painting the Kim’s in controversial pink and branded tracksuits. I find this to be so relevant in terms of Anarchy, in the research of this project I wanted to look at the people and individuals that are emerging themselves into political events and fighting for freedom of expression and being.
Sun Mu is a great example of an anarchist, he is an individual that is using his skills and experiences to document and educate the world outside the regime about the life that is inaccessible and unknown to us, whilst putting his and his family’s life at risk to do it.
Of all the research I have done into political movements and current headlines, I have decided to focus on North Korean defector artist Sun Mu because, personally, his work speaks out the loudest through the messages he is trying to convey. A North Korean defector isn’t something that is very heard of so I want to take this opportunity to explore that further. He escaped North Korea in order to leave the suppression he faced in regards to creativity, expressionism and being, however, this suppression still lingers now even having left North Korea as he is incapable of claiming his true identity and revealing himself to the world.
I want to take this opportunity to be able to help and communicate these messages to a wider audience through the use of a Fashion arts film. If you know the artist, you are willing to go and see his exhibitions in order to understand the works produced, however in the case of Sun Mu’s lack of ability to publicise himself and his work, I felt that the development of a documentary film had been the most effective way to educate people on this artist and his work. Thus I have decided to use the same platform of film to recreate some of his works and experiences to be able to show it to a wider audience.
I feel that by developing this idea through the medium of fashion film, I am able to make it seem a lot more real and alive as if to say, this is happening and this is true. A platform that offers me the ability to engage with viewers through moving image and sound I feel has a lot more impact than something that is static and less engaging.
Everything within the film is of intent and in reference to previous research, experiences and art. Each planned scene recreates either a chosen piece of art that has been produced by Sun mu or an experience that he has had to experience. I want this film to visually scream ‘Sun Mu’ through use of strong colouring of red and pink as seen in his art works. I plan to use a pink background for the film as it will be consisting of 6 very different scenes and they all need to link together and flow as a collective, thus I have decided to use a pink background to create a common factor within each of the scenes.
In regards to the styling of each scene, I have had to consider exactly what I am trying to portray. For instance, the scene of the schoolgirl drinking Cola is a recreation of an existing artwork thus the outfit for that scene should be styled as it has been within the painting. This means that the model within this scene should be wearing clothes that represent the classic North Korean school uniform. In contrast to this, the scene with the roses in a vase will feature the model in a navy dress. In this scene I decided to go for an elegant look as if to create an important and elite look of the model in representation of the North Korean government and their navy uniforms.
This particular scene will feature shots of the model lurking around this rose installation but then goes on to destroy the flowers and drink out of the vase to show the disrespect and carelessness for the installation. This scene reflects the time when Sun Mu invested a lot of time and effort into hosting a solo exhibition in Beijing which had then been shut down within a few hours of opening by the North Korean policing that resided in Beijing. This showed utter inconsideration for the artist and his work as they tore the exhibition apart and had taken away all of the works from it.
Much like Sun Mu’s work, the film is set to be vibrant and playful in regards to the visuals whilst carrying a much deeper and darker translation. This is in reflection the Philip Guston exhibition ‘Laughter in the dark’, it is about taking a fun outlook and approach onto something that is essentially very dark and gloom. By recreating some art works I am restricted to the visual look of the scene but by recreating his experiences I am able to have the freedom to add a visual identity and to style those scenes in my own way whilst still keeping it all within a certain colour scheme in order to make all of the scenes flow as a collective.
In consideration for the sound aspect, I have considered to feature a narrative of quotes by Sun Mu in order to convey a stronger message of the meaning behind the film. The narrative would consist of selected quotes such as this diary entry:
Today is July 1st.
Under the street lamps, the signs of restaurants are lit along the street.
The light is coming into my empty room, Where I am sitting at the window, Smoking.
Hey you, what are you thinking about? Are you missing a hometown you left behind? Or are you dreaming about the new land you will soon enter?
The cigarette is burned out, and I’m only left with ashes.
I flick my ash and stare out the window, silently.
Well, I have no-one to talk to anyway.
I have also considered the use of music as a background track, I looked into some political and expressive sounds which include, Won’t get fooled again by The who, A change is gonna come by Sam Cooke and Another day in Paradise by Philip Collins. I was more drawn to the idea of A Change is Gonna come by Sam Cooke as it speaks of the idea of change and how it will come. This is in reference to the article which spoke of the high possibilities of war breaking out between US and North Korea. Looking at how Trump had made a tweet of how the North Korean regime ‘won’t be around much longer’ had been perceived as an indirect declaration of war. This implies a change within the running of North Korea and its dictatorship. From a perspective of the lyrics, the song opening lyrics are:
I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ever since
It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
This verse alone reflects the setting of Sun Mu. In the documentary he spoke of how he had crossed the river from North Korea over to the Chinese side when he was escaping in order to change his life. The song reflects the idea of running and moments of weakness and the moments of hope that are felt throughout this journey with an aspiration for change.
I find this song to be very relevant, although it is rather gloom in sound it has a strong meaning and a positive outlook. I plan to develop a recording of the song being sung by my friends and then to edit it in a way to link it with the film. For this I plan to use software such as Audacity, LMMS and Garage band.