The 12th edition of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea previously announced that it’s theme will be Imagined Borders–but it has now revealed two new initiatives that are being introduced into the structure of the large citywide art event. With the aim of furthering international connections and networks, as well as to reconsider the biennale as it moves forward, the arts event has commissioned four international artists to produce monumental site-specific installations, as well as the Pavilion Projects.
Pavilion Projects will see invites extended to organisations from France, the Philippines and Finland to come to Gwangju to explore democracy, human rights and peace as a means of international exchange. Paris’s Palais de Tokyo will exhibit at the Gwangju Civic Center with the exhibition Today Will Happen, curated by Jean de Loisy and Kim Seong Won. Both French and Korean artists will be paired in the show, which takes its name from Michel Houellebecq’s poem The Art of Struggle (1996), which will be translated into Korean and made into a song. Helsinki's HIAP will come to Mugaksa Temple for Fictional Frictions, curated by Jenni Nurmenniemi, where recent and new sculptural and sound installation works by South Korean and Finnish artists will delve into the biennale’s broader theme, touching on co-dependency, past and present, and individual and collective. PCAN, from the Philippines, will see Filipino artists alongside Koreans at the Leekangha Art Museum and exhibition space Hothouse for Hothouse. Patrick D Flores, curator of the Venice Biennale’s 2015 Philippine Pavilion, was inspired by greenhouses and will have artists explore the relationship between natural and artificial, horticulture and the role of glass in urban architecture.
As part of a more focused international effort, Mike Nelson, Adrian Villar Rojas, Apitchatpong Weerasthakul and Kader Attia have been selected to produce large-scale, site-specific installations across the city that explore its history and historic sites. British artist Nelson–two time Turner Prize nominee and representative for Britain’s National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011–will explore the old Armed Forces’ Gwangju Hospital, which played a heavy role in the Gwangju Deomocratisation Movement. His intricate technique will use core hospital elements to incite both absence and the structure’s ominous past. Argentinian Villar Rojas’s oeuvre, which tackles historical, socio-political, cultural and geographical themes, will present a film at the Asia Cultural Center addressing migration and life in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. Palm d’Or award winning independent Thai filmmaker Weerasethakul will also exhibit at the hospital, but with a film that explores modern Asia’s trauma and scars following numerous Western invasions. Algerian Attia, who works around topics of history, politics and social in justice, will use a multidisciplinary approach to delve into structures of healing and coping with the consequences of political turmoil. While the location has yet to be disclosed, the complex work will work with formats that juxtapose physical and immaterial, real against virtual, and concrete versus mystical.
Gwangju Biennale will run 7 September-11 November in Gwangju, South Korea.