Nathalie Daoust: Korean Dreams

It is hard to imagine a nation of 25 million people living in a state of a deep dream today in 2019 while, for instance, its direct neighbour China successfully lands its spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. North Korean reality seem as distant as the Moon: it is hardly accessible and can be somehow observed only through the lenses of rare visitors from abroad. Visitors, however, are neither allowed to travel around, nor to photograph without the permission of the official guide. Topics and subjects to photograph are strictly regulated so as not to dispel the mythical dream of well-being. Nathalie Daoust brings back the feeling of manipulated and concealed reality through the use of dark room techniques.

Photographer Nathalie Daoust’s newest project, Korean Dreams, is a complex series that probes the unsettling vacuity of North Korea. Piercing its veil with her lens, these images reveal a country that seems to exist outside of time, as a carefully choreographed mirage. Daoust has spent much of her career exploring the chimeric world of fantasy: the hidden desires and urges that compel people to dream, to dress up, to move beyond the bounds of convention and to escape from reality. With Korean Dreams she is exploring this escapist impulse not as an individual choice, but as a way of life forced upon an entire nation.

Daoust deliberately obscures her photographs during the development stage, as the layers of film are peeled off, the images are stifled until the facts becomes 'lost' in the process and a sense of detachment from reality is revealed. This darkroom method mimics the way information is transferred in North Korea – the photographs, as the North Korea people, are both manipulated until the underlying truth is all but a blur. The resultant pictures speak to North Korean society, of missing information and truth concealed.

Nathalie Daoust: “Since my very first experiments in photography I have been fascinated by human behavior and its various realities, by the ever-present human desire of living in a dream world. The aesthetic of my new project continues this visual exploration at the border between dream and reality, yet this time it embraces escapism of a country and the act of loosing oneself within it. My objective as an artist is to push the boundaries of photography through experimental methods, working with new mediums and discovering new techniques in the darkroom.”

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