SWISS YODELING over Pyongyang

“Appenzöller”- PICKINGS from my NORTH KOREAN DIARY 11.–21. April 2011

“If you act from the heart, you can’t make a mistake.” And DPRK is no exception.

Grand People's Palace – The Chinese enjoy KIM IL SUNG'S pet – The the largest selection of folk music in the world

Our guides didn’t like alcohol and went to bed early every night...

No easy task – Not for her and not for me...

Guides usually relax after some late nights with a lot of beer and wine but ours were different. They didn’t like alcohol and went to bed early every night. What was I going to do? How could I establish contact with “True Children of the Red Spirit”? How could I break the deadlock of professional suspicion without a lot of beer and wine?

Professional suspicion - Visiting the house of the local guide at the farm cooperative outside Wonsan, on the left: my "permanent" guide

Walking to the Lighthouse with my male "permanent guide

How could I avoid being made into a capitalist monster?

Film City – US corner – Capitalist Monster

Sometimes I felt like that when people reacted to me as if I had an infectious disease when our guides forbid me to make contact. Relating to someone looking at something not on the official itinerary was like spying for them. Our two permanent guides were true red spirit children of the the North Korean Communist Party.

I realized that Korean names were difficult to remember, I didn’t relate to the people by their name. So got myself to pronounce the name of my female guide – she was very surprised when I called her the first time by her name – it went some way but wasn’t quite enough.

Then, traveling through the North Korean Peninsula to the East Coast of Wonsan, walking from the port to the lighthouse, I bought a big bag of sea shells from divers on a rudimentary black market – not for her! but to make her mother a present. My spontaneous act turned out to be a useful gesture. Over her mother I could relate personally to her, she told me the next morning that her mother never got such beautiful shells before, that she would prepare them and the whole family would get together – but it was no ice-braker either.

Some time later we visited the Grand People’s Palace, the National Library. This enormous marble palace, a reading and learning center of North Korea, also had a audio department containing the largest collection of folk music from all over the world – KIM IL SUNG’S favorite pet project. The audio room was filled with dozens of desks and radio sets. From the vast selection of  Swiss songs we chose the yodel “Min Vatr isch en Appezöller…”.

Grand People's Palace – audio department

Ursula – surprised to hear Swiss folk music – immediately started to yodel too. Her voice was so catching that our female guide began to yodel too. This finally turned the page – Tung Hui was still yodeling the next day… . Swiss yodel finally broke the ice.

How to remove the sting of being a spy?

It didn’t mean that from this day on I could do what I wanted but it removed the dangerous sting of being a spy, a snake in the grass. Something in the emotional fabric had changed for the better as I found out when we departed from Pyongyang airport.

ZENG FANZHI – Man and His Beast

Lunch at Zeng Fanzhi



Lunch at ZENG FANZHI in his Bejing home together with his grandparents, his daughter HAO’ER, his wife HE LIJUN and LORENZ HELBLING, director of Shanghart Galleries.

Works from the MEAT and MASK series.

ZENG FANZHI:”My family encouraged me to take up painting to keep me off the street.”
LORENZ HELBLING:”Zeng Fanzhi is one of the major artists shaping Chinese Culture of today. He is reinventing himself all the time.”
ZENG FANZHI:”I’ve never been interested in my art becoming a symbol of political ideas. I just want to portray my inner feelings and the people around me.”
ZENG FANZHI:”I grew up during the Cultural Revolution. These ideologies take a lot of space in my mind…but my work remains personal. It is of introspective nature. My work reflects my personal life and my emotions in Communist China today.

Zeng Fanzhi was born 1964 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Krieg, das ist Krieg!

Yevgenyi Burak, der Einsiedler im Mehrfamilienhaus, keiner hat Zugang zu seiner Wohnung. Der Zusammenbruch der Sowietunion hat ihm seine Berufung geraubt, seinen Beruf zerstört und seine Altersvorsorge zunichte gemacht. Er sagt:„ Soviet kaputt, dieser Photograph kaputt.“ Es herrscht Krieg, in seinen vier Wänden ist er im Krieg mit sich selbst. Doch Yevgenyi findet einen Ausweg

Ich liebe den Flughafen Scheremetjewo 2 in Moskau. Das Personal ist launisch. Du kannst stundenlang warten vor der Zollabfertigung. Der Flughafen eignet sich perfekt für Dreharbeiten aus der Sowietzeit.

Yura holt mich ab und wir fahren direkt nach Smolensk, ca 600 km Richtung Weissrussland. Es ist Winter, die Strassen sind verschneit.  Heute ist Feiertag. Familie Burak und Filipowitsch gehen in Smolensk zum Tisch. Sie erwarten uns nicht. Länger schon war Yura nicht mehr zuhause. Die Überraschung ist riesig. Überfreudig begraben sie Yura unter ihren Küssen. “Der Falke” ist da! ruft die Grossmutter, “hunting bird” ist zurück. Sie wissen alle, was das für jeden von Ihnen bedeutet, wenn Yura zurückkommt. Wir essen, wir lachen, wir trinken. Dann leert sich der Tisch, die Familienmitglieder gehen nach Hause.

Einer geht nicht nach Hause, er war nicht da, er fehlt immer. Alle wissen es, keiner spricht darüber. Yevgenyi Burak kommt nie zu Tisch. Es ist Mitternacht. Immer wieder dränge ich Yevgenyis Sohn Yura und Tamara dazu, den Vater anzurufen. Ich habe im Wohnzimmer eine Schachtel Photografien entdeckt, ich gebe keine Ruhe. Nein, er wird nicht kommen, er kommt nie. Endlich rufen sie ihn nach Mitternacht an.
Yevgenyi Burak kommt sofort.
Ich drehe den Film YOUNG WOLF in Tamaras Wohnung in Smolensk.

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im Wohnzimmer von Tamaras Wohnung. Dann reisen Yura und ich zurück nach Moskau.
Zwei Jahre später komme ich wieder nach Smolensk, ich will diesen Mann noch einmal treffen. Ich habe ihm letztes Mal sein entwickeltes Archiv, alle seine Photos abgekauft. Damit hat er sich ein Boot zum Fischen und eine Toillette erstanden. Jetzt will ich in seine Wohnung. Keiner war dort, sein Sohn nicht, seine geschiedene Frau nicht. Niemand sonst. Ich treffe Yevgenyi in Smolensk. Ich sage ihm: „ich habe meine Kamera dabei.“ Er schaut mich an, dann antwortet er:„Bitte!“

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