Although, according to Dagbladet, ME/WE was an artistic success, Traavik was not entirely satisfied. “We tried for over two months to recruit between 250-300 volunteers, but got only a handful to take part who accepted the premise.” Fortunately, the Norwegian military came to the rescue, apparently compelling soldiers to take part in this homage to totalitarianism.
Traavik hopes that his “art project” will help people in the West to recognize that their images of North Korea “are, at best, incomplete.” During his collaboration with the North Koreans, he’s made many friends among North Korean officials. He hosted a dinner in Kirkenes, Norway, for a North Korean delegation, at which his six-month-old son, Tage, was “dressed in a tailor-made dark green Kim Jong-Il uniform that he had had made for his son in Pyongyang.”
In May, Traavik will return to Pyongyang with a group of Norwegian artists who will hold a Norwegian cultural festival there. Traavik hopes that this will be the first of many cultural exchanges. As the project website enthuses, The Promised Land “opens our minds for a possibility of dialogue, overcoming mutual suspicion. Traavik is yet again challenging established truths [sic] and prejudices we have about our selves and each other.”
A reader who posted a comment on the Dagbladet article about The Promised Land said that Traavik is one of those very few fortunate Norwegian artists who don’t have to worry about making a living because he receives an annual stipend from the Norwegian government. A quick search shows that Traavik did indeed receive 190,000 kroner ($33,350) in Norwegian taxpayer money in 2011.
I will close by quoting another comment from Dagbladet in which a reader defends Traavik’s “art project” on these grounds: “If we did not have such art projects…we would be a flat, cultureless society. We don’t want to be the U.S., do we?”
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