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Published  as  translated  essay  in  Collectivize:  Essays  on  the  Political  Economy  of  Territory,  Vol.  2,  Marc  Angélil  and   Rainer  Hehl,  eds.  (Berlin:  Ruby  Press,  2013),  pp.  97-­‐120.    ISBN  978-­‐3-­‐944074-­‐03-­‐0  

  Ordering  Social  Relations:  Ideology  and  Collectivity  in  the  Case  of  Pyongyang     Arno  Brandlhuber,  Christian  Posthofen   translated  from  German  by  Cary  Siress     “[…]  The  Leader  of  the  working  class  introduces  a  revolutionary  idea  of  architecture  by  reflecting  the   varied  architectural  demands  and  aspirations  of  the  masses,  integrating  and  systematizing  them.  His   architectural  vision  originates  from  an  absolute  vantage  with  respect  to  the  masses.  As  such,  it   becomes  an  unconditional  guiding  principle  to  which  architects  must  adhere  […]  They  serve  as  a   powerful  theoretical  and  practical  weapon  for  achieving  success  through  architectural  creation.  […]   The  Juche-­‐inspired  idea  of  architecture  is  a  human-­‐centered  conception  of  design  based  on  the   fundamental  philosophical  worldview  of  Juche.  It  is  an  architectural  doctrine  that  fully  satisfies  mass   demands  for  leading  independent  and  creative  lives  in  relation  to  the  built  world.  […]  Monumental   structures  are  the  most  stirring  and  lasting  means  of  conveying  the  leader’s  achievements  and   upholding  his  greatness  for  prosperity.  Monuments  remain  with  mankind  forever  and  are  therefore   active  in  their  ideological  effects  on  collective  consciousness  regardless  of  social  progress  and   generational  transitions.  […]  These  grand  monuments  present  an  epic  picture  of  the  path  of  glorious   struggle  […]  and  thus  actively  contribute  to  educating  the  people  to  be  communist  revolutionaries  in   the  true  spirit  of  Juche  philosophy.”     Kim  Jong  Il,  “On  Architecture”1       Communal  interactions  are  characterized  by  part  to  whole  relationships  or,  more  abstractly,  by   relations  between  the  particular  and  the  general.    The  dialectic  of  particular  and  general  determines   collective,  socio-­‐psychological  symbols  that  organize  groups,  communities,  if  not  entire  cities  and   societies  as  well.  For  architectural  sociology,  the  dialectic  nature  of  communal  interactions  pertains   to  the  ordering  of  social  relations  through  built  form.     The  citation  above  from  Kim  Jong  Il’s  treatise  “On  Architecture”  bears  precisely  on  the  relationship   between  social  order  and  the  built  environment;  the  ideological  moment  of  architecture  is  

                                                                                                                1

Kim Jong Il, “On Architecture,” in Kim Jong Il: Selected Works 11, January-July 1991, (Pyongyang: Foreign Language Publishing House, 2006), pp. 127-132. Gleaned from various propaganda passages glorifying the “Great Leader,” the resulting text (“text cited above” or “the resulting volume”) was aimed to steer the function of ideology in North Korean architecture theory.

 

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recognized  as  principle,  and  is  so  deployed  to  systematically  enforce  interests  of  the  ruling  power.  By   decree,  the  architect  in  North  Korea  is  a  “theoretical  and  practical  weapon”  of  the  state.  Buildings  are   erected  to  bind  mass  desire  to  the  revolutionary  achievements  of  North  Korea’s  unique  Juche   ideology,  while  serving  simultaneously  to  glorify  the  personification  of  Kim  Il  Sung  as  the  country’s   “Eternal  President”  and  to  ensure  permanent  affiliation  with  the  great  Leader  Kim  Jong  Il.     North  Korea’s  single  ruling  party  exercises  pervasive  control  over  social  order;  the  North  Korean   populace  is  indoctrinated  by  what,  in  effect,  amounts  to  a  programmed  regimentation  of  collective   consciousness.  Since  social  desire  is  shaped  by  the  governing  regime,  architecture  propagates  the   prevailing  ideology  embodied  by  it.  Architecture  instills  the  ruling  ideology  not  only  in  public  opinion,   but  also  in  the  position  of  architects  and  planners  themselves,  especially  given  that  they  serve  as  de   facto  proxies  of  the  party.  And  because  design  is  subjectively  driven  by  desire  like  any  other  cultural   practice,  architects  and  planners  are  just  as  susceptible  to  ideological  conditioning  as  the  rest  of  the   population.  Consequently,  state  ideology  actively  orders  even  the  presumably  impartial  objectives  of   design  and  planning.2     In  this  sense,  Pyongyang  presents  an  extreme  case  of  a  more  general,  cross-­‐cultural  aspect  of   architecture,  whereby  the  subject  and  the  object  are  drawn  together  in  an  emotive  bond.   Architecture  is  always  framed  by  collective  desire  and  public  perceptions  of  the  surrounding   environment.    The  act  of  viewing  buildings  and  their  settings  connects  the  spectator  with  a  design   motif  that,  in  turn,  provides  the  viewer  with  an  effective  conduit  for  channeling  projections  of  desire.   These  projections  are  materialized,  as  so  many  latently  charged  meanings  of  architecture,  with  built   form  serving  as  their  material  provision  and  expression.  To  some  extent,  architecture  is  both   objective  by  virtue  of  its  material  tangibility  and  subjective  by  embodying  social  desire:  it  stands  in  as   the  concretization  of  the  viewer’s  own,  albeit  conditioned,  aspirations.     The  question  then  is  how  are  subjects  integrated  into  communities,  or  better  yet,  how  is  it  possible   for  individuals  to  feel  a  sense  of  belonging  to  a  greater  collective?    

                                                                                                                 Translator’s note: the terms ‘conditioning’ and ‘indoctrination’ are used in conjunction to convey the sense of the term 2

Vorstellungsorientierung as coined by the authors in the original German text. The term Vorstellungsorientierung addresses the process by which the ruling party of North Korea inculcates the masses and seeks to steer, and ultimately control, the collective imaginary of the nation. The authors use this term to critically interrogate the political and spatial dimensions of this authoritative agenda, and also to identify, where possible, its latent potential for design practices. Vortellungsorientierung—orientating perceptions and imaginations—pertains at once to architecture’s conditioning agency, understood as its influence on social actors through everyday use and experience, and to the top-down instrumentalization of architecture as a political agent of national indoctrination. The term as used in German is meant to encompass the conditioning and indoctrination of all forms of perception, and is thus applicable, in principle, to architecture theory and empirical spatial studies.

   

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Directives  aimed  at  enforcing  normative  behavior  play  a  significant  role  in  shaping  a  community   insofar  as  they  affect  individuals,  groups,  and  operative  systems  alike.  As  with  behavior,  perception  is   also  conditioned  by  the  sway  of  societal  norms,  which  are  just  as  forceful  in  cultivating  individual   values  and  beliefs  as  they  are  in  prompting  those  of  a  collective.  Architecture  acts  as  a  normalizing   agent  of  culture.  Built  form  becomes  rooted  in  the  collective  conscious  and  thus  lays  the  foundation   for  a  spectating  gaze.  Regulated  practices,  such  as  architecture  and  urban  planning,  perform  in  their   own  way  to  shape  collective  consciousness  through  behavioral  and  perceptual  conditioning.     Ideologies,  religions,  worldviews,  even  the  market  logic  of  Neoliberalism,  are  all  means  of   indoctrination.  Architecture  is  also  a  means  of  indoctrination.  The  intrinsic  capacity  of  architecture  to   condition  a  social  setting  is  especially  obvious  in  sacred  or  institutional  facilities.  Yet  architecture’s   performative  agency  is  also  discernible  in  less  symbolic  situations,  for  instance,  in  the  way  that  the   distribution  of  public  and  non-­‐public  spaces  affects  human  activity  or  in  the  way  that  the  spatial   organization  of  ordinary  buildings  orders  experience.  Design  decisions  influence  both  group  and   individual  interactions.  It  is  therefore  insufficient  to  examine  totalitarian  indoctrination  only  through   policies  enacted  by  the  North  Korean  state.  Architecture’s  role  must  also  be  critically  analyzed   because,  as  a  tool  of  persuasion,  it  is  complicit  in  social  conditioning.     The  two  sides  of  architecture—its  objective,  material  presence  and  it  subjective,  ideological  and   socializing  character  –  are  entangled  in  Pyongyang  to  a  degree  perhaps  only  possible  in  a  closed   society.  While  the  social  collective  and  the  crafted  environment  are  arguably  still  distinct  as  two   separate,  but  related  realms  in  other  cultures,  their  calculated  intertwining  is  especially  clear  in  the   North  Korean  capital.  Take  the  Kimilsungia  as  an  example:    a  flower  named  after  Kim  Il  Sung,  the   Kimilsungia  has  been  bred  in  bulk  throughout  the  country  and  used  increasingly  since  1975  as  an   emblem  to  idolize  the  “Great  Leader.”  As  a  mediating  symbol  that  binds  the  social  to  the  greater   nation,  the  Kimilsungia  flower  serves  to  “naturalize“  power  relations  and  legitimize  their  staging  as   collective  spectacle.3       The  ideological  agency  of  architecture  and  its  indoctrinating  impact  is  so  evident  and  extreme  in  a   closed  system  like  North  Korea  that  it  tends  to  overshadow  this  aspect  of  the  built  environment  in   western  culture—whether  with  regards  to  contemporary  buildings,  especially  religious  and  federal   buildings,  or  architecture’s  complicity  in  historical  events  such  as  National  Socialism  or  Stalinism.    

                                                                                                                3

See Olaf Nicolai in the preface to “Kim Jong Il, Kimilsungia: Pyongyangstudies IV,” Disko 11, 2008. He states, “The staging of public spectacles encompasses all dimensions, from spatial layout of interiors, to modernist collage of architectural motifs from Pyongang, to the ornamental pageantry of mass dances and public processions.”

   

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Pyongyang  is  a  relevant  and  worthwhile  case  study  because  it  recognizes  power  as  a  core  agency  of   architecture.  Yet,  the  lessons  learned  here  come  with  a  caveat.  As  seductive  as  they  are,  the   spectacular  images  of  mass  compliance  in  the  North  Korean  capital  should  not  blind  us  to  the   ideological  forces  of  architecture  that  shape  our  own  Western  forms  of  socio-­‐spatial  organizations.     Image  Captions     01  

The  two  flowers,  the  Kimilsungia  orchid  and  the  Kimjongilia  begonia,  are  used  throughout   Pyongyang  as  official  emblems  of  state  power.  Main  boulevard  in  the  center  of  the  North   Korean  capital.  

  02  

An  annual  mass  choreographed  spectacle  to  celebrate  the  birthday  of  the  ”Eternal  President”   Kim  Jong  Il,  staged  during  the  Arirang-­‐Festival  in  the  Rungrado-­‐May-­‐Day-­‐Stadium.    As  a   backdrop  to  the  event,  30,000  school  children  and  students  are  cued  to  hold  up  colored   cards  in  tandem  before  their  faces,  producing  a  human-­‐pixel  panorama  of  Pyongyang’s   cityscape.  In  the  foreground  is  a  synchronized  dance  choreography  of  the  Kimilsungia  flower.   The  figures  of  the  dancers  and  the  masked  faces  forming  the  urban  panorama  merge  in  a   unified  image  that  is  meant  to  call  forth  the  timeless  spiritual  presence  of  Kim  Il  Sung.  In  the   guise  of  a  flame,  the  “holy  spirit”  descends  on  the  scene  from  the  starry  heavens  above;  the   iconography  conjures  up  the  solar  god  worshipped  under  pharaoh  Echnaton,  founder  of  the   first  monotheistic  religion  in  ancient  Egypt,  and  thereby  serves  to  legitimize  the  deified   status  of  Kim  Il  Sung  as  the  apotheosis  of  all  rulers.  An  image  of  the  monumental,  170-­‐meter   tall  pillar  that  represents  the  national  Juche  ideology  is  aligned  with  the  sacred  “light”  from   beyond  and  placed  in  the  center  of  the  urban  panorama.  Marking  the  main  axis  of  Pyongyang,   the  Juche-­‐pillar’s  twenty-­‐meter  tall  torch  receives  the  divine  flame,  so  to  speak,  symbolizing   an  everlasting  bond  with  the  mythical  universe.  

  03-­‐r  

Detail  of  the  composite  image  formed  by  30,000  human-­‐pixels  during  the  Arirang-­‐Festival.     The  detail  depicts  the  late  ruler  Kim  Jong  Il,  who  passed  away  in  2011,  as  a  Kimjongilia   begonia.  Human  bodies  are  an  integral  part  of  North  Korea’s  state-­‐led  indoctrination   machinery,  incorporating  as  they  do  the  ruling  ideology  through  their  mass  participation  as   a  collectively  conditioned  unity.  

  04  

The  Kimilsungia  dance  choreography  depicting  the  national  flower  appears  repeatedly  as  an   instructional  refrain  throughout  the  three-­‐hour  long  performance  of  North  Korean  history.  

 

 

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05  

Groups  of  two  dozen  North  Korean  women  come  together,  each  forming  a  Kimilsungia   orchid.  Waving  a  bouquet  of  Kimilsungias,  a  soldier  standing  in  the  middle  represents  a   flower  temple.  The  flower  temple  is  a  reference  to  the  revitalizing  power  of  the  nation’s   military  and  its  “natural”  affiliation  with  Kim  Il  Sung,  the  founder  of  the  dynasty.  

  06  

The  birthplace  of  Kim  Il  Sung  is  revered  in  North  Korean  state  ideology,    like  a  Christian   Bethlehem  or  Islamic  Mecca.  Although  a  reconstruction  of  the  original,  Kim  Il  Sung’s  house  of   birth  functions,  from  a  psychoanalytical  point  of  view,  as  a  transitional  object:  All  North   Koreans  attribute  special  significance  to  Kim  Il  Sung’s  birthplace  because  it  rewards  them   with  a  sanctified  relationship  with  the  state.  It  is  therefore  a  shrine  that  all  North  Koreans   must  visit  at  least  once  in  their  lifetime  to  share  the  “therapeutic”  promises  of  national   legend.  By  going  on  this  pilgrimage,  North  Koreans  are  indoctrinated  into  the  national  myth   of  North  Korea.  

  07  

Oversized  jugs  in  the  courtyard  of  the  birthplace  of  Kim  Il  Sung.  The  poorly  made  pottery  is   supposed  to  simulate  the  “simplicity”  of  Kim  Il  Sung’s  childhood  home  and  thereby   demonstrate  to  visitors  the  ruler’s  allegedly  modest  upbringing  as  “one  of  the  people.”    

  08  

Annual  flower  festival  hosted  in  an  exhibition  hall  specially  built  for  the  Kimilsungia  Festival,   which  is  held  every  April  to  commemorate  the  birthday  of  Kim  Il  Sung.  Visitors  become  part   of  the  show  by  having  their  official  portrait  taken  with  that  of    Kim  Il  Sung  and  Kim  Jong  Il.  In   the  photograph,  visitors  are  surrounded  by  a  sea  of  the  national  flowers  named  after  the   country’s  two  former  rulers,  the  Kimilsungia  and  the  Kimjongilia.  

  09  

Civilian  and  military  organizations  from  around  North  Korea  send  decorative  flower   arrangements  to  the  Kimilsungia  Festival.  The  gifts  are  arranged  around  a  model  of  Kim  Il   Sung’s  birthplace,  similar  in  spirit  to  the  Christian  nativity  scene.  

  10  

“Day  of  the  Sun,”  a  wintery  North  Korean  “nativity  scene”  of  Kim  Il  Sung’s  birthplace  is   displayed  in  front  of  a  dense  forest  of  Kimilsungias.  

  11-­‐12   Pictures  of  the  floral  arrangements  and  the  modest,  “of  the  people”  pottery  are  regularly   broadcasted  as  party  propaganda  on  the  country’s  only  state-­‐run  television  channel.     13  

A  typical  billboard  in  Pyongyang:  on  the  left,  an  image  of  the  Kimilsungia  orchid;  in  the   center,  the  “blessed”  Paektusan  mountain  that  the  North  Koreans  are  also  obliged  to  visit  at   least  once  a  lifetime;  and  on  the  right,  the  Kimjongilia  begonia.  In  the  guise  of  flowers,  Kim  Il  

 

5  


Sung  and  Kim  Jong  Il  are  omnipresent  throughout  the  city;  the  nation’s  rulers  are  elevated   beyond  social  critique  by  being  portrayed  as  the  apotheosis  of  everything  “natural”  in  the   world.       14  

Entrance  to  the  Paektusan  Academy  of  Architecture  in  Pyongyang,  with  a  promotional   billboard  showing  the  nativity  scene  of  Kim  Il  Sung,  the  Juche-­‐tower,  and  the  Kimilsungia   orchids.  The  academy  serves  as  the  capital’s  only  architecture  and  planning  office.  Architects   and  planners  are  sworn  into  service  of  the  governing  regime  on  their  way  to  work.  

    15  

The  entrance  hall  of  the  Architecture  Academy  is  adorned  with  a  large  mural  depicting  the   urban  panorama  of  Pyongyang.  It  is  framed  by  Kimilsungias  and  Kimjongilias,  with  the  white   blossoms  scattered  in  between  representing  the  common  folk  of  North  Korea.  The  ruler  Kim   Jong  Il,  who  was  still  in  power  as  recently  as  2007,  is  additionally  represented  by  a  real   Kimjongilia  flower  enclosed  in  a  vitrine,  simultaneously  protected  and  strategically   positioned  to  “watch  over”  architects  of  the  state.  

  16  

One  of  the  many  images  illustrating  the  prominent  role  of  design  and  planning  in  the  overall   power  structure  of  North  Korea’s  ruling  regime.  Kim  Il  Sung  and  Kim  Jong  Il  are  depicted   together  as  thoroughly  engaged  in  design  and  planning,  with  the  pointer  in  the  former’s   hand  to  symbolize  his  competence  and  power.  

  17-­‐18   deleted     19  

The  Berlin  City  Palace,  also  known  in  German  as  the  Schlossplatz,  in  a  photograph  taken  at   the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century.  

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The  Berlin  City  Palace  in  the  early  twentieth  century  as  a  complete  architectural  ensemble,   with  two  courtyards  and  a  dome.  

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Destruction  of  the  Berlin  City  Palace  during  World  War  II,  with  the  Berlin  Cathedral  in  the   background.  

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Demolition  of  the  Berlin  City  Palace  by  the  government  of  the  German  Democratic  Republic   (DDR)  in  1950.  

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Site  cleared  of  the  Berlin  City  Palace  ruins,  with  Schinkel’s  Altes  Museum  and  the  Berlin   Cathedral  in  the  background.  

 

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Model  of  the  DDR’s  Palace  of  the  Republic  on  the  cleared  site  of  the  Schlossplatz  in  1973.  

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The  headlines  “The  Palace  of  the  Republic  is  Open”  and  “The  House  of  the  People  at  Marx-­‐ Engels-­‐Platz  in  the  Capital”  were  printed  on  the  first  page  of  the  DDR  newspaper  and  central   media  organ,  Neues  Deutschland,  on  April  21,  1976.  

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deleted  

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One  of  the  many  official  municipal  signs  publicizing  the  Palace  of  the  Republic  since  German   reunification  in  1990.  

  28-­‐29   deleted     30-­‐31   The  old  Berlin  City  Palace  returns  by  way  of  a  rendering  in  the  winning  design  by  Italian   architect  Franco  Stella.     32  

The  cleared  Marx-­‐Engels-­‐Platz,  now  re-­‐named  the  Schlossplatz,  stands  empty  while  it  waits   for  the  construction  of  the  new/old  Berlin  City  Palace  to  begin.  Its  successive  christenings— from  Schlossplatz  to  Marx-­‐Engels-­‐Platz  and  back  to  Schlossplatz—is  in  itself  evidence  of  the   indoctrinating  function  of  the  site  and  its  strategic  significance  in  power  relations    

  33  

The  area  around  the  Schlossplatz  during  the  winter  of  2010,  with  a  view  from  the   construction  site  looking  toward  the  Friedrichswerder  Church  by  Karl  Friedrich  Schinkel.   Three  dummies  clad  in  full-­‐scale  projections  of  their  future  facades  form  a  veritable   Potemkin  village  in  the  heart  of  Berlin,  concurring  with  the  indoctrinatory  influence  of   architectural  settings.  On  the  left  is  the  dummy  of  Schinkel’s  Academy  of  Architecture.   Abused  as  a  mere  prop  for  commercial  billboards,  the  construction  hints  at  the  core  interest   of  profitable  real-­‐estate  ventures,  which  are  shared  by  those  Berlin  architects  involved  in   building.  In  the  middle  is  a  temporary  structure  for  the  Center  for  the  Arts.  Clad  as  the  Palace   of  the  Republic,  the  Arts  Center  is  enlisted  as  a  political  delegate  and  calls  attention  to  the   destruction  of  the  Palace  of  the  Republic.  On  the  right  is  the  City  Palace-­‐clad  construction  site   of  the  Humboldt  Box,  which  since  2011  has,  paradoxically,  offered  a  futuristic  venue  for  the   visiting  public  to  view  plans  for  the  promised  re-­‐construction  of  the  original  City  Palace.  

  34-­‐35   Architecture  plays  an  active  role  in  trans-­‐cultural  practices  of  indoctrination.  Kim  Jong  Il’s   treatise  “On  Architecture”  presents  a  set  of  systematic  instructions  on  how  architecture  can  

 

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be  used  a  political  tool  to  indoctrinate  the  public  by  instilling  the  interests  of  those  in  power   in  the  collective  perception  of  our  built  environment.  The  time  has  come  to  ask  ourselves  the   following  questions:  Where  do  we  live?  Which  systems  serve  to  hinder  and  confine  us,  and  in   which  architectural  or  spatial  conditions  can  we  recognize  such  constraints?  Two  closing   images:  a  billboard  in  a  dreary,  pedestrian  part  of  Berlin  advertising  the  new  City  Palace  and   another  promising  a  new  skyline  for  the  recently  constructed  ghost  town  of  Ordos  in  inner   Mongolia.      

 

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Cary Siress Ordering Social Relations pyongyang