Features / Focus

Insight 2020 – Key concepts of the Gwangju and Busan Biennales according to their artistic directors

posted 10 Feb 2020

With the new year just dawned, there is already much hustle and bustle in the biennale and fair scene and among institutions that are newly launching an artistic director system, as they busily prepare for 2020. We sat down with the artistic directors of the Gwangju Biennale and the Busan Biennale, two of the highlight events of 2020 to hear them talk about their key concepts, as a way of getting a sneak peek of what is in store in the year ahead.

Defne Ayas & Natasha Ginwala
2020 Gwangju Biennale Artistic Director

left: Natasha Ginwala right: Defne Ayas © Photo: Victoria Tomaschko

left: Natasha Ginwala right: Defne Ayas © Photo: Victoria Tomaschko

We are experiencing the intelligence explosion, or what is broadly known as the emergence of superintelligence, yet we continue to ask ourselves: Where is intelligence precisely located? How can we move beyond the Western world's divisions between corporeal, technological and spiritual intelligence? Where are we heading in our co-evolution with augmented intelligence, and what does all this do to the human' status as the so-called most adaptive intelligent species? To what extent can intelligence be pursued in the human brain but also in the heart, as the Korean translation of the term would imply; as well as the collective mind via indigenous knowledge, sacred cosmologies, animism, matriarchal systems and psychic connections? The next edition of the Gwangju Biennale, slated. to open September 4, 2020, Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning sets forth to examine the spectrum of the extended mind via artistic and theoretical means.

Within the latitude of this single word, this notion of increasing volatility is arguably what is most characteristic of our times, and certainly one aspect that politics, economics, and art all have in common. What is volatility? What makes spaces volatile? One perspective is that volatility only exists when multiple frameworks overlap, each framework pulling in a different direction. It is a sign of the times, a product of the speed of historical change. It is perhaps not inconspicuous that volatility as a consequence of overlapping frameworks resonates so strongly with the infrastructures we are working with in the art world, at the moment in Korea.

Anti-systemic kinship
As a global community we have entered socio-political conditions that continually flow toward divisive and totalitarian notions of participation and belonging. The notion of anti-systemic kinship points to undisciplined channels of affiliation formed through networks of collective struggle, friendship and reparation. Instead of pledging alleigiance to the idea of nation or to a pure construct of identity, let us consider mutating, itinerant and hybrid alliances that act beyond the binary framings of insider and outsider, masculine and feminine, legal and illegal. By moving beyond linear and hierarchical genealogies of group identity passed on through colonial modernity, anti-systemic kinship gestures toward those vibrant formations that unleash practices of care, mourning and renewal today.

Jacob Fabricius
2020 Busan Biennale Artistic Director

© Photo: Stamers Kontor

© Photo: Stamers Kontor

Climate change
Climate change is on everybody’s lips. At least during the COP25 (2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). We need to "think" differently and "act" differently, or act accordingly. Greta Thonberg is just 16 years old and she has - within her short activist life - gained a lot of political recognition and power, and become an icon for the youth. Maybe she will be the new t-shirt image for the 21st Ventura, like she was for the leftwing in the 20th century. I know it might be boring to see exhibitions and be confronted with art works that relate to climate change - maybe its to abstract to "think" about, do anything about - BUT somehow we need to "re-think" how we "produce," do projects, exhibitions and artworks. We have over production, and that also goes for the art World. I'm no saint at all and I do not have a solution for making more sustainable models/methods for the art world to deal with climate change. We have become so international - Uber international - that we zap the world, jump on a plane, to see new cultures and cultural events - like biennials (I do and love that) - for 1-2-3-4 days and then we zap to the next event. Considering the climate and how we use the world resources, we need to think. The future will bring the village back, and we will do smaller things that will be more local.

Ragged Education
Recently I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with young students. I hope that these meetings will result in exhibitions and projects at Kunsthal Aarhus – where I work – in such that the syncopation of the education will produce an off-beat track in the streamlined educational structure. I hope we can create a network in Korea, Cameroun, Denmark of …. (art) educational disturbance or interruption, so young minds are challenged to see and experience the world a little bit different. Artists and art do that on a regular basis, but it would be good to massage it into the educational system as well.

Korean Mecca
Maybe Mecca is the wrong expression/word, however 2020 is Biennale season for all Korean art pilgrims. People from Korea and all other the world will travel to Seoul, Gwangju and LAST but not LEAST Busan where I am the artistic director. I can’t wait. I have done the same Korean pilgrimage 3-4 times in the past and seen great exhibitions in Korea – it’s amazing to see all these large scale exhibitions in Korean. It is really impressive. Almost like a religious rush. Busan Biennale will be exciting and my idea and concept is generally speaking to merge literature, visual artists and sound.

※Read more on the Gwangju Biennale
※Read more on the Busan Biennale

※ This article was originally published on the JAN 2020 issue of PulicArt and is provided by the Korea Art Management Service under a content provision agreement with the magazine.

Jeong Song

Public Art Editor

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