Gwangju Biennale curator reveals why this 12 months’s title is ‘Tender and weak like water’

Gwangju Biennale curator reveals why this 12 months’s title is ‘Tender and weak like water’

The South Korean metropolis of Gwangju, tucked within the nation’s south-west, has come alive. The Gwangju Biennale has returned for the 14th time and is in full swing.

Working till July 9, this 12 months’s occasion, titled “Tender and weak like water” options works by 79 artists from world wide. And, for the primary time in 15 years, the biennale has a Korean creative director on the helm — Sook Kyung Lee, senior curator of worldwide artwork at Tate Fashionable.

Lee tells The Nationwide the phrase “Tender and weak like water” was borrowed from the Daoist textual content, Dao De Jing, believed to have been written by Laozi in sixth-century-BC China.

She explains: “It’s concerning the paradoxical energy of seemingly weak issues, referring to the transformative nature of water that might break onerous issues like rocks or change the course of a river over a protracted time frame.”

The biennale displays on water’s potential to embrace contradictions and paradoxes — imagining the substance as a metaphor, a pressure and a technique. Taking this a step additional, Lee invited artists to think about the planet as an area of resistance, solidarity and care.

It’s a poignant metaphor for an occasion that concurrently pays refined tribute to the Gwangju Rebellion and Bloodbath of Could 1980, when between 200 and a pair of,000 civilians misplaced their lives protesting towards Military Main Basic Chun Doo-hwan’s navy junta. The occasion was seen as a turning level in South Korea’s rocky street to democracy.

Nevertheless, the biennial goals to evoke not the rebellion itself, however its spirit, in solidarity with different freedom actions world wide. Its members embody Johannesburg-based artist Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, whose work replicate her expertise as a black girl underneath the South African apartheid, and Peruvian Santiago Yahuarcani, whose work goals to protect the indigenous Huitoto tradition of northern Peru from the forces of modernisation and globalisation.

Elsewhere, Malgorzata Mirga-Tas of the Bergitka Roma tribe, presents new textile works — produced utilizing clothes donated by household and buddies, symbolising the Roma group’s wrestle for inclusion — whereas Oum Jeongsoon has created a sequence of sculptures along with visually impaired college students, representing their makes an attempt to symbolize an elephant by means of auditory, olfactory and tactile senses.

Lee’s curatorial workforce additionally contains affiliate curator Kerryn Greenberg and assistant curators Sooyoung Leam and Harry C H Choi. Collectively, they’ve developed a programme that unfolds throughout 5 places all through Gwangju — that includes works that reply to every website’s distinctive architectural, historic and cultural context.

Among the many fascinating places chosen is Yangnim Mountain, which stands in testomony to the historic Japanese colonisation, anti-colonial resistance and Christian evangelisation of the Korean Peninsula. On the foot of the mountain is the group artwork area, Horanggasy Artwork Polygon, which performs a key half within the occasion.

Gwangju Biennale curator reveals why this 12 months’s title is ‘Tender and weak like water’

Lee says: “Yangnim Mountain’s pure magnificence and contested histories are excellent contexts for one of many 4 sub-themes of the Biennale, ‘Planetary Instances’. Vivian Suter’s unstretched canvasses take in daylight superbly in a glass pavilion of the Horanggasy Artwork Polygon, being juxtaposed with the pioneering environmental artists from Korea, Jeoung Jae Choul and Kim Youngjae.

“Within the different glass pavilion, Yuko Mohri’s sound set up displays upon an unwritten historical past, whereas Anne Duk Hee Jordan’s robots and synthetic creatures create underwater-like futuristic landscapes. The working Buddhist temple Mugaksa can also be an important dwelling for meditative works by Liu Jianhua, Dayanita Singh and Huong Dodinh, in addition to for quietly resilient works by Hong Lee Hyun Sook and Taloi Havini.”

Mugaksa hosts a sequence of meditative works, reflecting on the cyclical nature of life. Whereas Singh’s movie Mona and Myself (2013) charts one of many artist’s lifelong friendships, Liu’s Realm of Reflection (2022) reinterprets the Chinese language ceramic custom in a manner that provokes a Zen Buddhist reassessment of the self and the world. Elsewhere, Dodinh, who fled Vietnam in the course of the Vietnam Struggle and settled in France, presents summary work that discover the internal inventive journey.

Initially conceived in the course of the worldwide chaos surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the biennale explores the roles that creative inquiry and community-building can play in re-imagining present techniques. Taking the main target away from relentless modes of manufacturing, the curatorial workforce has requested members to deal with the occasion as a possibility to reinvent their very own practices by constructing on ongoing analysis and initiatives.

Lee explains: “Having spent the gruelling lockdown in London, I grew to become curious about delving deep into the which means of on a regular basis, and was eager to discover the basics of humanity and the way forward for the planet as the house of human beings and all other-than-human beings.

Vivian Suter's untitled installation. Photo: Gwangju Biennale Foundation

It might sound somewhat grand now, however I really feel that we skilled an especially uncommon time the place we might assume and act in another way and extra radically.”

The programme attracts on an deliberately various vary of members, together with established and rising expertise, girls, minorities and indigenous artists — every taking the unique Daoist premise in various instructions. It contains 40 new works and commissions, responding to Lee’s interpretation of “Tender and weak like water” in numerous, however equally “inspiring” methods.

Lee explains: “[The artists] really understood and valued my interpretation of this previous saying. No matter their cultural backgrounds, many of those artists shared a way of care and solidarity, and appeared to imagine in a permanent energy of artwork.”

Reflecting on a few of the most notable commissions, she factors to Candice Lin’s new work introduced on the Gwangju Nationwide Museum, produced after a number of analysis journeys in collaboration with an area grasp of onggi, a kind of Korean pottery.

“Constructing on her earlier enquiries into up to date globalism of lithium battery manufacturing, Lin additionally embedded a wealthy historical past of mass ceramic manufacturing in Korea on this work, co-commissioned with Canal Tasks.”

One other new work, co-commissioned with Han Nefkens Basis, is Meiro Koizumi’s five-channel video set up Theater of Life, which addresses the advanced historical past of the Korean diaspora by means of the Koryo-in group — ethnic Koreans from post-Soviet states.

“Koizumi researched the historical past of Koryo Theatre in Central Asia and re-enacted a few of their performs with teenage Koryo-in college students residing in Gwangju, revealing the legacies of a current colonial historical past,” says Lee.

As somebody who was born and educated in Seoul, Lee says components of East Asian philosophy akin to Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism have been “pure mental and cultural influences” on her pondering.

“I needed to revisit a few of these concepts as a mind-set concerning the function of artwork in our time, when such crises as international pandemic, local weather emergency and resurgent nationalism threaten our coexistence. Artwork appears considerably powerless in these circumstances, however I discover its energy in its gentleness and persistence, like water.”

Up to date: Could 15, 2023, 3:04 AM