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Noted: Kim Jong Phil

Feb 7, 2011

by Michelle Traub handmade and vintage goods

I read at open mics with a self-consciously flat meter, I submit short stories to literary magazines only to shrink in horror when I discover their Googlability, and I decried the diary throughout my youth before ultimately gaining employment as a blogger. The pull between humility and ego is ever-present and exhausting. Artists must indulge, fundamentally, I argue, for what would expression be without the self? Artist Phillip Toledano confronts his ego with pomp for his Kim Jong Phil series. In his statement, he writes:

“It occurred to me that being an artist is a great deal like being a dictator. Just like a dictator, I must live in a closed loop of self-delusion. A place where my words and ideas always ring true. A gilded daydream of grandiosity. There can be no room for doubt. I must be convinced that I have something vital to say. I must believe that the world is waiting in keen anticipation to hear my message.”

Working with the historical canon of dictatorial art, from Saddam Hussein to Kim Il Sung, Toledano inserted himself into a legacy of narcissism that makes me just want to tweet my little heart out.

All art by Phillip Toledano

Can you relate?

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  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky said 6 years ago

    That's a great quote indeed

  • Floreal

    Floreal said 6 years ago

    Very interesting.. Makes you think!! :)

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 6 years ago

    phenomenal art!!!

  • CositasSeriasVintage

    CositasSeriasVintage said 6 years ago

    Wonderful post! Thank you for introducing us to this great artist!

  • joyafibers

    joyafibers said 6 years ago

    indeed, very interesting!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    Interesting idea, quite funny yet narcissistic.

  • DecadesOfVintage

    DecadesOfVintage said 6 years ago

    What an interesting perspective.

  • collectiblesatoz

    collectiblesatoz said 6 years ago

    A lot to think about.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 6 years ago

    not alot of people would admit to being a dictator. i admire your moxy

  • floodplainstudio

    floodplainstudio said 6 years ago

    This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Great post! So interesting!

  • Mattamorphis

    Mattamorphis said 6 years ago

    Googlability would be an amazing name for a shop.

  • GiraffesandStuff

    GiraffesandStuff said 6 years ago

    "I must live in a closed loop of self-delusion." That's totally my mantra.

  • StudioConestoga

    StudioConestoga said 6 years ago

    Well put...and so true...but in a much much milder way. Love the artwork!

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 6 years ago

    I have lived in a *closed loop of self-delusion* all my life! Long live propaganda!

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka said 6 years ago

    Great idea and artwork!

  • longtailedcomets

    longtailedcomets said 6 years ago

    Ha ha ha - love the concept - will be using this to teach propaganda in my class!

  • Leocardia

    Leocardia said 6 years ago

    Exceptionally funny. Aren´t we all tiny despots deep inside, from the very beginning?

  • rosebudshome

    rosebudshome said 6 years ago

    That is why they call it art, anything goes.

  • RoseyFinch

    RoseyFinch said 6 years ago

    Very cool idea. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • RoseyFinch

    RoseyFinch said 6 years ago

    Very cool idea. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 6 years ago

    The really interesting art seems to come from the place you least expect it.

  • TheRealMackenzie

    TheRealMackenzie said 6 years ago


  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 6 years ago

    So very true!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 6 years ago

    Oh this is so true! Although I hate to admit it, I think in order to have the confidence to present your work to public scrutiny you HAVE to believe it's the best! Maybe not the best of all, but at least as good as everything else & the best you can make it.

  • PrettyLoot

    PrettyLoot said 6 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons said 6 years ago

    A fascinating insight into the inner workings of an artist's mind!

  • mcldrygoods

    mcldrygoods said 6 years ago

    armchair, dictatorial, autocratic demagoguery! love it. :D

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    i like that question, "what would expression be without the self". great idea and great article!

  • blueroompottery

    blueroompottery said 6 years ago

    Interesting approach, although in my opinion and experience, when you do good work you really need to stay silent and let others do the talking...! IWhen I buy a piece of art I do so, because it spoke to me, and I really don't care of what the artist thinks of him/herself, Sorry...

  • chelseavintage

    chelseavintage said 6 years ago

    This is very true for an artist. You have to have some 'ego' in order to stand behind your art and say, this is the best shit since sliced bread, and you better believe it!'

  • treeartist

    treeartist said 6 years ago

    So true !

  • SouthernScrapper

    SouthernScrapper said 6 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds said 6 years ago

    This is really interesting. Thank you!

  • antiherostudio

    antiherostudio said 6 years ago

    Fantastic work! I love the completely unselfconscious feel as he inserts himself in the work. And, strangely, I feel like photoshop-ing my head on various famous works of art now. Hmmm

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 6 years ago

    heheh! great title too!

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 6 years ago

    He has a good point in his observation about artists being like dictators. There is always some of ourselves in our art some not as obvious as others.

  • earlybirdcreations

    earlybirdcreations said 6 years ago

    'A gilded daydream of grandiosity' - so true in many ways. I love this quote, thanks for sharing :)

  • glowfly

    glowfly said 6 years ago

    So very true and his work does such a great job of representing that idea. I LOVE it. Beautiful work.

  • TubeHeaven

    TubeHeaven said 6 years ago

    so true! it's so challenging and tough to not feel manic depressive sometimes! great stuff.

  • HollyDoll

    HollyDoll said 6 years ago

    no I can't relate. I feel like one's own artwork is beautiful and wonderful to the artist despite what others think- and you are only too thrilled if someone else agrees! The "dictator" concept is weird to me. Talented artist but I don't relate.

  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire said 6 years ago

    Those are so funny! I love old Chinese propaganda pictures. Who will he be next, Che? Lenin?

  • SugarCubeVintage

    SugarCubeVintage said 6 years ago

    interesting post...

  • tinahdee

    tinahdee said 6 years ago

    I get it. You have to be the dictator over the demons and irrational fears in order to produce your art.

  • poorjimsvintage

    poorjimsvintage said 6 years ago

    We can relate.

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    To thine own self be true, no?

  • cakemates

    cakemates said 6 years ago


  • thepapermoonstudio

    thepapermoonstudio said 6 years ago

    Love it. I never really looked at being an artist in that way.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • seesong

    seesong said 6 years ago

    I know a great many people who live in "closed loop of self-delusion", not surprsing since artists, especially in modern days need to create iron clad wall of integrity in order to "make" one's identity into existence. Skills and creativity alone cannot cut it anymore. Kinda sad...

  • piecesofelises

    piecesofelises said 6 years ago

    Very interesting. It's true. Being an artist does mean that you have to feel like you have a message no one else has. Very true.

  • callmemimi

    callmemimi said 6 years ago

    Cool :) Beautiful work !

  • Pipkyn

    Pipkyn said 6 years ago

    This is so true and I wonder how many artists would feel comfortable admitting it? Art really is about self expression and therefore has to be all about your self. A revelation, thank you!

  • Pipkyn

    Pipkyn said 6 years ago

    This is so true and I wonder how many artists would feel comfortable admitting it? Art really is about self expression and therefore has to be all about your self. A revelation, thank you!

  • swapnilt

    swapnilt said 6 years ago


  • swapnilt

    swapnilt said 6 years ago


  • maaretsinkko

    maaretsinkko said 6 years ago

    story of my life, really!

  • valeriephoto

    valeriephoto said 6 years ago

    I think there's a lot to be said of and learned from art that includes yourself. Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman are some of my favorite photographers. And of course, I always love the Andy Warhol "self-portraits" of his friends in photobooths!

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom said 6 years ago


  • TheOnly

    TheOnly said 6 years ago

    Love it! I'm very interested in USSR history and this art is kinda 'socreal' type :)

  • camillegallery

    camillegallery said 6 years ago

    I don't know what to think about that. It is abviously a very strange thesis. Comparing artists to dictators kind of makes me feel uncomfortable, I don't think one can say that artists impose anything on anyone but himself. They don't try to rule the world as they want, but try to express how their own world rules, without paying attention to what other people think about it. Anyway, thank you for this post, it's very interesting.

  • thevintagequeendom

    thevintagequeendom said 6 years ago

    ha, he's so true! must be the reason for the "queendom" in my shop's name ;-) there's no self-employment without an endlessly big ego behind it. it keeps you going during bad days!

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 6 years ago

    Huh. This work is really neat. Inserting yourself into various propaganda posters is original and the execution is also top notch. :)

  • pinkbijou

    pinkbijou said 6 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • jessedraperstudio

    jessedraperstudio said 6 years ago

    So clever.

  • jessedraperstudio

    jessedraperstudio said 6 years ago

    So clever.

  • happyowl

    happyowl said 6 years ago


  • GalleonGal

    GalleonGal said 6 years ago

    compelling yet simply beautiful, one glances at this art appreciating the symmetry, then ones eyes trace back over to then recognize the author posed in a historical moment

  • SignsByDiane

    SignsByDiane said 6 years ago

    Really? "An artist is like a dictator"? Well perhaps to this particular artist who has an ego to match. However a dictator imposes his will upon a population and tightly controls them. Big difference! In addition the dictators he's putting his image onto were all mass murderers of tens of millions of people. I personally like to think of artists as free spirited, open minded and generous with their ideas. Unlike a dictator who's not generous at all by ruling a closed society with an iron fist. Interesting work, silly comparison.

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 6 years ago

    I definitely understand what Phillip is trying to convey. What a profound statement of self-discovery...and I must admit I can empathize. There must be no room for doubt, especially when being an "artist" is your career and livelihood. The world will always be full of options, however, the artist must remain true to their creativity and expression there of.

  • Plinkjewelry

    Plinkjewelry said 6 years ago

    cool stuff

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