Words by Phillip Valys
Books Bischof wants you to Google the name of the Primary Projects new exhibit, “International Friendship Exhibition.” Search results will direct people not to his gallery’s website, but to a North Korea museum, home to an enormous and bizarre trove of gifts given to the country’s founder, Kim Il-Sung, by various controversial figures such as Mao Zedong, Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro and Joseph Stalin.
“This show is an exercise in contradictions,” says Bischof, the show’s curator. “The exhibit has a really friendly name that sort of draws you in to learning about things that maybe aren’t so friendly. Do we need to get more active with our local government? Is there a revolution ahead? I want it to be a catalyst for conversation.”
The 20 artworks filling the downtown Miami space are worth talking about. Asif Farooq’s flashy pink neon sign, “Desaparecidos,” refers to the forced disappearance of nationals who oppose the North Korean dictatorship. Cole Sternberg’s installation of a pile of 94 charred American flags, Bischof says, “challenges ideas about patriotism.” Gavin Perry’s piece, consisting of five bent rebar rods, is covered in multicolored resin on one side to resemble a rainbow, and colored black on the other.
“It could be a commentary about communism. Take it however you like. It’s meant to be open-ended,” Bischof says. “At the very least, it is supposed to be a jumping-off point to creating more dialogue.”