O Tannenbaum
Two-channel video installation
13:48 min, loop
Still image
Courtesy of artist

The strategic coordination of Japanese politicians,
underground mafia, and mass media under the
CIA's navigation and direction resulted in the
violent suppression of communist protests, thereby
paving the way for Japan to accept pro-American
Since 2016, Minouk Lim's research has
been centered on tracing the historical journey of
the renowned labor anthem The Red Flag. Sung
to the tune of the German carol O Tannebaum (O
Christmas Tree), the new lyrics—emphasizing the
sarifices and solidarity of the international labour
movement—were written in 1889 by Jim Cornell,
and later bacame an anthem of the British Labor
In this newly commissioned project, Lim
extends her research of the song's migration
to Japan in 1921, to be sung by the Japanese
Communist Party, and later by the New Left,
while the same music was sung by Korean
independentists against Japanese rule. Through
performing the song, Lim suggests how this
evocative and emblematic anthem became a
vessel for otherwise conflicting beliefs.
The Red Flag is closely linked to antigovernment
protest activities which during the
1950s and '60s, developed into the Utagoe, or
singing voice, movement—socialist choral activities
that strove to promote popular unity, compiling
song books together with Soviet worker's songs.[1]
Exhibited as a video installation of the
documented performance, Lim’s work stages a
car broadcasting live accordion music of The Red
Flag and other “labor songs” selected from the
Utagoe songbook, while driving around the Tokyo
Imperial Palace, as such choreographing the
deterritorialization of history through the subject
in motion. The loud speakers of the live accordion
music goes on and off as the car drives in and
out of the sound restriction zone surrounding the
palace. This intervention recalls Bloody May Day
in 1952,[2] when protesters forced themselves into
the Imperial Palace, clashing with the police amidst
unified chanting of proletariat hymns.
The National Security Act in South Korea
enforced in 1948 prevents the public from singing
The Red Flag as a Pro-North Korean, and therefore
anti-goverment, act.

[1] The Utagoe has its
origin in 1947, when the
Central Chorus band of the
Democratic Youth League of
Japan (Minsei, 1923-present)
was formed as a substructure
of the Japanese Communist
Party. This grassroots public
choral activity of “workers’
songs” gained nationwide
popularity in the 1960s,
spreading across Utagoe
cafés with the slogan “Sing
with Marx! Dance with Lenin!”

[2] Bloody May Day (1952)
occurred at Tokyo’s Imperial
Palace (Kokyogaien)
between the government and
multi-sectoral leftist forces
composed of Japanese and
Koreans (reportedly led by
Minsei and Zengakuren, a
communist/anarchist league
of students), following the
country’s release from
American occupation and the
signing of the San Francisco
Peace Treaty (1951).
Right: Still from O
Tannenbaum (2019).
Left: Music notes and lyrics
of The Red Flag in Japanese.
In: Proletariat Song Book
(Puroretaria Kakyoku-shu),
Musan-sha, 1931.

 O Tannenbaum   Return point- accordian river 
 O Tannenbaum    moving theatre- side and front  
 O Tannenbaum    People square ghost imperial palace 
 O Tannenbaum    performing at imperial palace 
 O Tannenbaum   Return point-ritornello