2018 Gwangju Biennale
Exhibition explores border issues in scattergun approach
GWANGJU — Under the theme “Imagined Borders,” derived from Benedict Anderson’s book “Imagined Communities,” the 2018 Gwangju Biennale deals with imminent issues such as refugees, migration, cold war, divisions and the digital divide.
For this year’s Gwangju Biennale, 11 curators organized seven main exhibitions with some 300 works of art by 165 artists from 43 countries.
“We selected multiple curators last November and the curators picked the artist in March,” Kim Sun-jung, president of Gwangju Biennale Foundation, said during press preview on Sept. 6.
Three of the main exhibitions are held in the Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall and the remaining four at the Asia Culture Center (ACC). GB Commission is presented at the former Armed Forces’ Gwangju Hospital and the Pavilion Project is held at three different venues throughout the city in collaboration with other international institutions.
The 12th edition of Gwangju Biennale made the choice to encompass a wide range of themes by selecting 11 curators and providing them independence, but such diversity leaves visitors in a maze full of intriguing works of ar t . Some might get lost in a disorderly fashion, while others might find real gems from the pile of artworks.
Tate Modern curator Clara Kim presents “Imagined Nations / Modern Utopias,” investigating modernism and architecture in the context of nation-building in the 20th century. “We examine the past from the perspective of today through architectural language. It is a really important time to look at the architectural monuments and history in the notion of borders,” Kim said.
One of the notable works from the section is Kuwaiti artist Ala Younis’ “Plan (fem.) for Greater Baghdad.” The installation piece examines urban planning of the Iraqi capital in the 1950s, as the city invited the world’s top architects such as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright while it prospered from oil profits. Yunis’ project also traces female figures in the architectural history. Gridthiya Gaweewong’s section “Facing Phantom Borders” centers on politics in Southeast Asia, telling narratives through various mediums.
“The history often does not incorporate voices of individuals. I tried to explore the relationship between people and nation-state. I am also interested in mass immigration and fluidity of politics,” Gaweewong said.
The curator set the boundaries of Asia from the end of the Eurasian continent to Turkey and Poland and discusses refugee issues and sensibilities of rival cities.
Christine Y. Kim and Rita Gonzalez co-curated “The Ends: The Politics of Participation in the Post-Internet Age.” “Some of us use social media for consumption and display, while the internet is used for civilian control in other parts of the world. We wanted to generate discussions about the potential end of the internet as we know it and politics in the post-internet age,” Kim said.
Miao Ying’s “Chinternet Plus: What Goes On” reflects the Chinese artist’s critical interest in censorship. In the form of a promotional booth that can be found at trade fairs, Ying promotes a counterfeit of the government’s big data project Internet Plus, satirizing censorship behind the “Great Firewall” of China.
David Teh created an archive lounge summarizing the 23-year history of the Gwangju Biennale.
“In regard to the present, we had to look back to the origin and impact of Gwangju Biennale over the past 23 years. The outlook on biennale is not too optimistic these days, but Gwangju
Biennale played an important role in the development of Asian contemporary art and we wanted to add a layer of history to the present show for reflection,” Teh said.
The exhibition continues to the ACC, where “The Art of Survival: Assembly, Sustainability, Shift” organized by Kim Man-seok, Kim Sung-woo and Paek Chong-ok is presented.
The curators brought the history of the city into the exhibit, juxtaposing anti-biennale banners from 1995 with installations revisiting the activities of sex workers during the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement.
Chung Yeon-shim and Yeewan Koon’s section “Faultlines” is headlined by Tara Donovan’s gigantic pyramid made of plastic tubes in questioning the principal concept of borders.
“We explore different concepts of borders and their specificity in this image-saturated era,” Chung said.
Lara Baladi’s “Watch Out for Zuzu” is on view at the 2018 Gwangju Biennale, which runs through Nov. 11.
Shezad Dawood’s “Cities of the Future” Svay Sareth’s “Silence & Yell”
“Blazon: The Korean Delegation” by Marwan Rechmaoui