‘Decoding Dictatorial Statues’ is a collection of images and texts revolving around the different ways statues behave in public space. How can we decode the agency of their sculptured body language and their sociopolitical role as relational objects and media icons?
Ted Hyunhak Yoon couples a designer’s perspective with an analytical approach, and explores the clichéd poses of dictatorial statues. In his image analysis, he lays out a choreography of these sculptures and uncovers the non-verbal rhetorics that shaped them. In the visual framing opened up by Hyunhak Yoon’s image research, readers can zoom in and out the various narratives on offer.
In addition to these visual narratives, ten authors —acting as a group of decoders— contribute to a wide range of perspectives on the subject. Statues from different eras, located in different parts of the world, form the starting point for these precise dissections. For instance, what links an outbreak of cultural vandalism against a 2000 year old Vietnamese devotional subject with the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2011? Why would a recently liberated African country opt for a North Korean company to tell its history? How can we define historical value in regards to the removal of colonial monuments in South Africa, the Netherlands and the United States?
Responding to current debates on the representation of the historical canon, these experts’ perspectives and Ted Hyunhak Yoon’s visual framework address urgent concerns about the depiction and representation of both our heritage and our future leaders. By asking us to consider the visual language of the statue itself, this project offers a living understanding of a supposedly long-gone symbolic order and a pathway to a more cross-cultural and historic comprehension.