Cold War, Hot Peace

An exhibition of works from the REAL DMZ PROJECT, exploring the Demilitarized Zone and its border area in South Korea


Organizing Institutions

REAL DMZ PROJECT Committee, South Korea

Contributing Institutions

Samuso, Space for contemporary art Co., Ltd., Art Sonje Center, and Slought


Sunjung Kim and Nikolaus Hirsch (Co-curators of REAL DMZ PROJECT 2014-2015)


Hyejin Lim and Yisoo Choi (REAL DMZ PROJECT Committee)

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web



25% Formal - 75% Informal

Slought, the Department of English and the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce "Cold War, Hot Peace," an exhibition about the REAL DMZ PROJECT, on display from February 26, 2015 through April 12, 2015. The exhibition features works by artists -- including Dongsei Kim, Mark Lewis, Yang Ah Ham, Florian Hecker, Ingo Niermann, Tomás Saraceno, Koo Jeong A, and others -- that explore inner-Korean border areas in Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea. It is organized by Sunjung Kim and Nikolaus Hirsch with the REAL DMZ PROJECT Committee in Gangwon-do, South Korea, working together with Samuso, Space for contemporary art Co., Ltd., and Art Sonje Center.

An opening will take place at Slought on February 26, 2015 from 6:30-8:30pm, sponsored by Penn Cinema Studies, and will feature a public conversation with curator Nikolaus Hirsch and theorist Thomas Keenan of the Human Rights Project at Bard College. The evening will also feature a special performance by cellist Okkyung Lee, a Korean musician working across performance, improvisation and composition. Since moving to New York in 2000, Lee has released more than 40 albums and collaborated with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Douglas Gordon, Christian Marclay, Thurston Moore, and John Zorn.

Korea, with its antagonistic division north and south of the Military Demarcation Line around the 38th parallel, remains frozen in time, yet in permanent threat of the overheated political paranoia along the world's most heavily armed border. The sixty-year-long ceasefire has created its own spatial paradoxes and cultural ironies, a time caught somewhere between cold war and hot peace. After the Korean War came to a halt with the ceasefire agreement on July 27, 1953, the DMZ was immediately installed: four kilometers wide and 248 kilometers across, giving the entire peninsula an ideologically insecure security belt of sorts. South of it, the Civilian Control Line was set up some five to fifteen kilometers from the Southern Limit Line, and the area in-between came to be called the Civilian Control Zone. Since then, the hot war has turned into what could be seen as the last relic of the now-very-real Cold War. Indeed, the impact of ideology remains omnipresent: an oppressive presence of military infrastructures such as checkpoints, fences, and guard posts; and the sites of the so-called "Security Tour" such as the DMZ Peace & Cultural Plaza and the Cheorwon Peace Observatory that reflects Sunshine politics. The other, often neglected reality is the DMZ's wild natural landscape with its rare species and agricultural territory cultivated by farmers in the Civilian Control Zone, an area in which civilian access is strictly regulated.

The REAL DMZ PROJECT is a contemporary art project based on research conducted on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Having begun with a critical perspective on the ironies that surround the Demilitarized Zone, the project has expanded this year by experimenting not only with artworks in situ but also via dialogue and discussions within the field of the humanities and social sciences. Hence the project investigates the paradoxical conditions of conflict while imagining a new, alternative reality for the Demilitarized Zone. The REAL DMZ PROJECT strives to give voice to the historical, political, and social strife that has resulted from the political division. The project approaches the issue from the perspective of the participating artists, shedding light on the ruptured and distorted narratives, the forgotten or erased stories.

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In his book South and North, the poet Ko Un describes the irony of the North and South Korean situation in which the two can never be separated despite their division. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a place where this contradiction is the most evident.

The name "REAL DMZ PROJECT" exposes the paradox of a so-called "demilitarized" zone that is, in fact, one of the most militarized zones in the world and in a constant state of confrontation and tension. The REAL DMZ PROJECT explores the areas that surround the zone where the experience and aftermath of war and its memories, cease-fire and peace, daily life and control, confrontation and coexistence, and an unclear future stand side by side. The project reflects on what a "real DMZ" is, and how it can be realized.

Making at the DMZ implies a movement outside of the safe boundaries of a gallery or museum. It also creates different time zones and asynchronous rhythms between curatorial strategies, artistic practice, and academic research, that resist a fixed sense of history or the concept of homogenous time.

Hence the REAL DMZ PROJECT becomes an exhibition that grows and shrinks, that morphs in reaction to the various formats and rhythms. As its name suggests, the project aims at developing a tool or platform that unfolds untold realities and indeed imagines realities in a territory that is both a relic of the Cold War past and indicative of a new era of rewriting borders -- whether it be Palestine/Israel, or the Ukraine, or the Middle East.

Works include:

Florian Hecker, Reformulation

Ingo Niermann, The De-Mechanized Zone

Tomás Saraceno, DOF (Degrees of Freedom)

Yang Ah Ham, Wilderness - within us - Socialized Nature

Mark Lewis, Tiger and Observation in Cheorwon County

Koo Jeong A, steady zero

Dongsei Kim, A Construct the Koreas (Never) Made Together: Deconstructing the DMZ for the Imaginary

John Skoog, Reduit (Redoubt)

Media selection by Thomas Keenan

Live musical performance by Okkyung Lee