“Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude”: the 10th edition of Korea’s Busan Biennale

This year’s Busan Biennale reflects on the art biennales system and the complex notion of multitude.

The Busan Biennale, running from 3 September to 30 November 2016 at the city’s Museum of Art, explores the “here and now” of the biennials system, alongside its consequences on art production and promotion.

Busan Biennale 2016, exhibition site under construction. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Busan Biennale 2016, exhibition site under construction. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Why do art biennials proliferate? Why do they matter in art discourse? What makes these events so attractive? Despite the original format of geographic clustering proposed and confirmed biannually by the Venetian institution, the 1990s marked the beginning of these major exhibitions popping up and massively spreading across the globe – amongst others Liverpool, Lyon, Berlin, Dakar, Sydney, Shanghai, Taipei.

Focused on curatorial practices rather than on the “who’s coming from where”, these large-scale group shows invite artists from all over the world to contribute to the conversation on vast, sometimes too vague, themes concerning historical evolution, economics, globalisation, environment, and so on.

Busan Biennale, 2014, exhibition site. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Busan Biennale 2014, exhibition site. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Where are we now in this process of ‘biennalisation’? Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts (IDSVA) PhD Jason Hoelscher explains in his Art Circuit: The Biennial Complex as Dynamic Chronotopic System (2013) published on the Artcore Journal:

From a handful in the 1990s (such the Whitney Biennial and Venice Biennale) to the large number today (Istanbul, Havana, Bucharest, São Paolo, Gwangju, Chengdu, Sharjah, and a host of others), the biennial format has spread to become a global phenomenon. Enabled by the rise of technological interconnectivity, inexpensive travel, and the concomitant rise of art tourism, the biennial is now a system, a network through which viewers, artists, artworks, curators, and discursive concepts travel, pausing momentarily at specific points in space and time before moving on to the next location.

These increases in global presence and connectivity have in many ways shifted the focus from the distinct biennial to what is now called the biennial circuit: by explicitly defining a recurring time relationship while spreading across space at a global level, the biennial format itself acts as something of a rhythm for the art world, showing what happens where and when, as different nodes of the network light up at predictably periodic intervals.

Katharina Sieverding, 'Die Sonne um Mitternacht Schauen (red) / Looking at the Sun at Midnight (red), 2010-2012, SDO/NASA (Red), Digital Film Projection, 121 min. Weltlinie 1969-2016, in "Projected Data Images", 14 May - 26 June 2016, Akademie Galerie Die Neue Sammlung, Düsseldorf. © Katharina Sieverding, VG Bild-Kunst. Photo: © Klaus Mettig. VG Bild-Kunst.

Katharina Sieverding, ‘Looking at the Sun at Midnight (red)’, 2010-2012, SDO/NASA (Red), Digital Film Projection, 121 min. © Katharina Sieverding, VG Bild-Kunst. Photo: © Klaus Mettig. VG Bild-Kunst. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Curated by international Korean curator and director of the Chinese How Art Museum in Wenzhou Yun Cheagab, the tenth edition of the Busan Biennale spreads across a 16,500-square-metre space including the Busan Museum of Art and the F1963 (KISWIRE Suyeong factory).

Entitled “Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude”, this major event confirms the mission of such initiative, aiming at providing people with the tools to thoroughly comprehend art and its trends. This year’s focus on diversity, humanity, global interconnections and socio-political and economical consequences of the ‘biennale phenomenon’ is explored throughout two exhibitions, “Project 1: an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea” and “Project 2: Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude”, and a series of academic and educational projects under the title of “Project 3: A Ground for Discussing Multitude, Moving Beyond Genres”.

"Project1: an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea"'s co-curator Guo Xiaoyan. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

Guo Xiaoyan, co-curator of “Project1: an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea”. Image courtesy Busan Biennale.

The exhibition “Project 1: an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea” will be held at the Busan Museum of Art. Curated by Yun Cheagab, this project delves into the Chinese, Japanese and Korean experimental avant-garde art scene that spontaneously came into being in each country in the 1960s to 1980s. Co-curated by Chinese Guo Xiaoyan, Japanese J-Team, Noi Sawaragi, Akira Tatehata, Yuzo Ueda, and Korean Kim Chandong, the group show features 137 artworks by 64 artists from China, Japan and Korea. Quoting the announcement on e-flux,

The Chinese section will address the period of resistance and conflict spanning from 1976 to 1995 when the Cultural Revolution, the Beijing Spring, and the Tianmen Square Massacre took place whereas the Japanese section will feature avant-garde art from the period of the bombing of Hiroshima to the end of the 1980s, the Gutai Group, Mono-ha, and part of Superflat. The Korean section will address the sphere of Korean experimental art, which was the part of conceptual art, happening, media, overshadowed by Dansaekhwa (monochrome painting in Korea) and Minjung Misul (People’s Art) in the 1960s to 1980s.

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti, 'SELVAGE', 2016, Performance, 180°Ø. Photo: Jochem Jurgens. Image courtesy the artist and Busan Biennale.

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti, ‘SELVAGE’, 2016, Performance, 180°Ø. Photo: Jochem Jurgens. Image courtesy the artist and Busan Biennale.

The other main exhibition project titled “Project 2: Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude” is curated by Artistic Director Yun Cheagap. Specifically, this section

reexamines the biennale system that came into being around the world in the 1990s and will present the role and nature of biennales where new discourses on contemporary art are raised by multiple intelligences. The F1963 (KISWIRE Suyeong factory) will be filled with experimental works by 56 artists or teams from 23 countries, turning it into a ground for the public sphere of multitude and a new space for culture and art.

The notion of multitude is further investigated in “Project 3: A Ground for Discussing Multitude, Moving Beyond Genres”, a multiform programme involving scholars working with art, architecture, design, performances and other art languages, aiming at providing the public with a heterogeneous multifaceted view that emphasises our globalised landscape as we know it.

Carmen Stolfi

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Related topics: news, curators, curatorial practice, globalisation of art, biennals, biennales, connecting Asia to itself, events in Korea

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