This writer met with Yun Cheagab, artistic director of the 2016 Busan Biennale (September 30 to November 30). Themed “Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude,” this year’s exhibition was held at the Busan Museum of Art and at F1963, the remodeled KISWIRE Suyeong Factory (a space of approximately 9,900 square meters). In addition to illuminating the avant-garde art of China, Japan and Korea from the 1960s to ’80s, the exhibition looks at the “hybridity” of the post-1990s international biennale system. Yun explained the planning process and the content of this year’s exhibition.
The title “Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude” contains the themes of this Biennale, which consists of three distinct projects. Project 1 at the Busan Museum of Art, “An/Other Avant-Garde China-Japan-Korea” deals with Korea’s, Japan’s and China’s avant-garde art in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. This will be the first time we have had a combined exhibition of 1960s, ’70s and ’80s periods of these three countries at the same time—due to the different dynamisms of Asian countries, in political and economic terms.
Project 1 has five curators: Kim Changdong for Korea, Guo Xiaoyan, from the Minsheng Art Museum in Beijing, for China, and Noi Sawaragi, Akira Tatehata and Yuzo Ueda, together known as J-Team, for Japan, with a total of 64 artists or groups. For Japan, we’ll start from ground zero, with the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and before and after the war. It will be an opportunity for them to take a look back at their imperialism, invasions, nuclear issues and human rights. Because of the dictatorship, Korea couldn’t have its mainstream art, which resisted militarism in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. As for China, it deals with the era from the Beijing Spring in 1978 until 1995, and the Chinese avant-garde whose anti-socialism hasn’t yet been displayed in China or other countries.
Project 1 is the first of its kind in history: an opportunity to re-create the avant-garde art of three countries. It considers the era before globalization, when the concept of localism was very important. At that time, isolated avant-garde art styles in individual nations were emphasized.
Project 2 is mostly focused on the theme “Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude.” It is a very serious look at hybridity—and especially globalism—and the concept of the biennial after 1990. It takes place at the KISWIRE factory, which was built by one of the largest corporations in Busan in 1963. I personally know the chairman of the company and I asked him to use the whole of this building for the Biennale and he fortunately said yes. There will be 60 artists—30 are European, 30 are Asian, with three young artists from Busan—all in one open space with no partitions.
Project 3 consists of a seminar and parties. First, the seminar will address worldwide avant-garde art and trends, and we are going to talk about issues important in avant-garde arts. It will also touch upon the theme of Project 1 [“An/Other Avant-Garde”] very seriously. “Another” means “the same” but “other” can also mean difference but “the same,” at the same time: so we expect to see a wide range of discussion of avantgarde art focusing on this theme of “an/other.” It will be the first-ever meeting where researchers who study this era of avant-garde art will come together.
Before the end of the Cold War, isolationism, localism and the individual characteristics of art scenes were very important. But since the 1990s, the avantgarde has been globalized. That is when globalized biennials became very proactive and that is when many countries, like Korea with Japan, China and European countries, began to trade with each other.
There is a courtyard space in the middle of the building, about 20 by 50 meters, that will be equipped with an automatic system to open or close the roof of the space. There will be a stage for seminars, the opening ceremony and for other events including jazz concerts and contemporary dance performances. The Biennale will be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. but after hours people can use this interior courtyard. Outside of this will be an area in glass for the archives, a brewery, art shop and coffee shop. The main building itself is 80 by 140 meters, with end-walls of glass so it is possible for people to see a view of the whole exhibition. Normally exhibition spaces are equipped with artificial light and soundproof cubes, but we will let it remain as a factory space. We will use sunlight as much as possible, so there will be some times when the venue will not be very bright. We want to let people enjoy the space the way it is.
When I was involved in Loop in 2003, I took part in the construction of a new building, which was also the case in Beijing and when I was in New York at Arario Gallery. And How Art Museum in Shanghai is also commissioning a new building. As it so happens, I have been working on a new building every three years—but this is my dream building.
After seeing the long weeds and grass in the Giardini at the Venice Biennale as well as the Gwangju Biennale’s building, which is empty when the Biennale finishes, I decided to make something more meaningful—a space that is open to citizens 24 hours a day, the whole year round. So I want to make this a place where all genres of art—music, dance, art—can hybridize with each other. We are also planning to start a new cultural foundation, KISWIRE Culture Foundation, so that other institutions can utilize this space during the year.
※ This article is published as part of a collaboration between ArtAsiaPacific magazine and Korean Arts Management Service. It first appeared in ArtAsiaPacific's special supplement “Biennales in Korea”, No.100, Sep/Oct 2016.
HG Masters is currently writer and editor-at-large for ArtAsiaPacific magazine, after previously serving as managing editor. Since 2008, Masters has edited the ArtAsiaPacific Almanac, an annual review of contemporary art in 53 countries from Turkey to Taiwan. Masters studied at Yale University, and was the recipient of an Andy Warhol Foundation Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant in 2011. He is based in Istanbul.