North Korea is always in the headlines in some shape or form. Recently, the feud between the U.S and North Korea has ignited once again with news reports of missile testing and Trump tweeting, in what has become a very strange iteration of one-up-manship. Listening to a North Korean ex-pat on the subject the other day opened up a world of new thoughts about the closed country. Not only was his opinion on the escalating tension calmed with an in-depth historical count of similar patterns occurring over the last few decades, but his descriptions of the everyday North Korean’s life reminded me of the otherworldly state in which these people live.
If you’re interested in what life in North Korea is like, there’s a couple of incredibly fascinating documentaries on youtube - one from the 1970’s, the other more recent by Vice - both of which are nearly identical in format. That’s because the North Korean government only allow certain aspects of the country to be relayed to the outside world. And those aspects have barely changed in 30 odd years.
Oliver Wainwright's photos above follow a similar line of enquiry. The Guardian reporter has been allowed access to North Korea’s major civic buildings to document as a part of his usual critique on art, design and architecture. This is a win for North Korea as civic structures are evidence of success and progression - propaganda in other words for a country that’s full steam ahead. What they show however is quite the opposite. Wainwright's stark photos show an empty world (much like the documentaries mentioned above), manicured to the point of no return. Weirdly, the colour palettes and kitsch nature of the rooms are very on-trend when you consider a lot of the latest art directed shoots as well the works of creatives such as Wes Anderson. Their precision and immaculate order, as well as their candy-colourings show a world that’s almost cartoon-like with Soviet-era fittings and aesthetics. The selection above is merely that, you can see a full tumblr of Wainwrights images on North Korean Interiors. The colour combinations in some of them are almost too good to be true.
Images: Courtesty Oliver Wainwright