United Nations Secretariat news (November – December 2001)

Amazed World, United Nations, NY

Val Castronovo



Amazed World is a towering showcase of miniature drawings from 34,000 children from 132 countries. Constructed by Korean artist Ik-Joong Kang, the monumental installation is sponsored by the Republic of Korea and UNICEF and will be on view until May, when the General Assembly will be holding its Special Session on Children.


Kang¡¯s three-tiered, multimedia oeuvre is a shock of primary colours, so-called ¡°danchung colors,¡± which according to Korean belief symbolize harmony and the universe. Tiny mirrors are interspersed throughout the mosaic, and windows are carved in the walls, adding depth and dimension as you peer through them Alice in Wonderland-style.


The three towering, parallel walls, linked by silk-screened beams, are the artist¡¯s vision of a global house. ¡°The house holds three concepts of time – past, present and future,¡± Kang told Secretariat News. ¡°The danchung colors and the Korean concept of harmony symbolize the past. Look at yourself in one of the mirrors, and you see the present. The children and their drawings represent the future.¡±


It took two dozen studio workers laboring for six months to assemble Amazed World. Each child¡¯s drawing was mounted on one of the artist¡¯s signature, 3 inch x 3 inch wooden blocks, ¡°little windows looking into their dreams.¡± Walls of pictures become walls of sound as taped voices of the children sounding their visions of the future in a multitude of languages play from speakers embedded in the beams.  The dense mix of sound, image and color almost overwhelms, so grand is the scale and ambitious the plan. But what seems big – gargantuan even – to the spectator seems small to Kang, who envisions enlarging his installation to include participation ¡°by a million or 10 million children.¡±


In the short term, he hopes to add a fourth wall to the exhibit, dedicated to the victims of 11 September. It will incorporate thousands of children¡¯s drawings the artist has received since the tragedy, each with its own healing power, he says.


In the long term Kang hopes to locate a permanent venue for his evolving work, which will be a ¡°monument to children¡¯s dreams that will grow like a tree.¡±


Kang solicited the artwork in a letter that read: ¡°Hello! What is your dream? I am very curious about how you imagine your future, the future of our world¡¦ if you send your dream I will use it like a brick, making a big bridge for people to cross over into the future.¡±


Special efforts were made to have artwork from children facing severe hardships, including orphans in Croatia, refugees in Azerbaijan and slum children in Kenya. More than 300 drawings came from Afghan children in refugee camps in Pakistan. The project was an opportunity to let children speak for themselves, and all submissions were accepted.


One picture from a young Mexican girl depicts a Palestinian child shaking hands with an Israeli child. Another from a child in Cuba expresses the desire to become a doctor to help heal children.


¡°Many people who visited the exhibit after the World Trade Centre bombing saw the irony,¡± says Kang. ¡°They saw the innocence of children who were trying to tell us to stop for a moment and see their world – to believe in them, to believe in mankind. Why don¡¯t we focus more on this?¡± he asks.