Venice Architecture Biennale 2014

Interview with Peter Noever by Yihyun Park in “mise1984” (08/2014)

Excerpt of the Interview

Peter Noever: The first time I visited the DPRK, it was out of a personal interest in the people and the culture. During that short stay, I visited the Korean Art Gallery in Pyongyang and asked for a meeting with the director. Everything else developed further over the years that followed. Altogether it took around five years to prepare the exhibition, which was the first large scale presentation of art and architecture outside the country.

Of course the crucial point was to bring to Vienna the portraits of the statesmen Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, who are venerated in the DPRK as “Great Leaders.” To hold the first exhibition of DPRK art and architecture outside the DPRK and exclude these works would have been an unforgivable omission. Finally together with the Korean partners we managed a challenging and successful exhibition.
In the end, the local press gave me a hard time. They attacked me in the form of an intellectual sanction, claiming that I had no right to mount such an exhibition. Not so the international press. The New York Times alone covered this Vienna exhibition several times, and their evaluation of it was thoroughly positive. No form of ideology is ever helpful in an art project.
When I was in Pyongyang about a year after the Vienna exhibition, they were very pleased. The officials even invited me to the soccer game DPRK/Japan in Pyongyang. This was another victory for Korea! At the same time they also made it clear that there won’t be another international exhibition so soon.
After the architecture biennal in Venice and the new political situation in DPRK architecture will be of much more interest.

It is my belief that we can only understand our own creations in relation to—and by means of a connection with—the creations of others. Only a dialectical approach can hope to overcome the barriers of one’s own era.