620,000 visitors attend the 2012 Gwangju Biennale
The Gwangju Biennale Foundation
111 Biennale-ro, Buk-gu
Gwangju, Republic of Korea, 500-845
ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale closed its doors yesterday. The biennale included the participation of 92 artists and artist collectives from 40 countries, with works in the Gwangju Biennale Hall and several sites across the city of Gwangju. With a total number of over 620,000 visitors, and a daily average of 9,000 attendees, this year’s biennale reached record numbers, with an increase of 26% in visitors compared to the last edition in 2010.
“The 2012 Gwangju Biennale surpassed our goals in terms of attendance and public interaction, local and international media attention, and the overall criticality of this year’s theme, ROUNDTABLE,” states Gwangju Biennale Foundation President Yongwoo Lee.
Collaboratively curated by six Co-Artistic Directors—Nancy Adajania, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Mami Kataoka, Sunjung Kim, Carol Yinghua Lu and Alia Swastika—ROUNDTABLE invited viewers to consider topics such as historical memory, the ubiquity and precariousness of border crossings, and the importance of temporal and spatial positioning, through a balanced tension of diverse individual and collective responses to the shared traumas and potentialities accompanying development and globalization. The 9th Gwangju Biennale’s overlapping themes and experimental format garnered high acclaim from both the domestic and foreign art community.
Speaking to popular resistance—a key thread running through the exhibition’s interconnected themes, The Guardian’s Justin McCurry wrote: “At its inception in 1995, the Gwangju Biennale’s founders declared that the event owed much to the tumultuous events of May 1980. This year’s biennale—overseen by six female curators from Asia and the Middle East—[was] no different. Recognising the venue’s pivotal role in the dawn of South Korean democracy, there [were] artworks that [dealt] with popular resistance campaigns on its own doorstep to those of the Arab spring and the global Occupy movement.”
The “memory of the Gwangju massacre also reappear[ed]” for Sabine Vogel, who wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “The biennial present[ed] itself politically and critically with such works as Pedro Reyes’s weapons converted into musical instruments…or Laurent Grasso’s flashy neon writing Visibility is a Trap. Reflecting in particular on Abraham Cruzvillegas’s installation in a house built during the 1930s Japanese occupation, Vogel added “[he] exposed the many covered up sections and interventions in the architecture, which, like a biography, recount the life of the house, where each layer attempts a new order. Like Cruzvillegas, the Gwangju Biennale [did not try] to put a fragmented world in order, but…only partly uncovered its many layers.
The success of this year’s biennale did not rest on the presentation of a unified voice or comprehensive overview of contemporary art in Asia. Instead, as Anna Somers Cocks wrote in The Art Newspaper, “[ROUNDTABLE was]… in the broadest sense…an exploration of the affinities between philosophical standpoints, preoccupations and incongruities between different cultures.”
Asia’s oldest and most prestigious contemporary art biennale, the 9th Gwangju Biennale maintained a strong regional and international presence, while offering a full program of events to engage the local public. This dual focus resulted in the biennale’s high attendance in 2012, and this engaging dynamic expanded beyond the exhibition with two highly attended Workstations and three E-Journals (available for download at www.gwangjubiennale.org). The third ROUNDTABLE E-Journal—we can remember it for you wholesale, edited by Wassan Al-Khudhairi—was published at the close of the exhibition as an active invitation to continue conversations beyond the biennale’s physical and temporal reach. The Gwangju Biennale also co-hosted the first World Biennale Forum in October, which attracted a diverse roster of curators, artists, and biennale directors to Gwangju, all of whom toured ROUNDTABLE as part of the forum’s programs.
The Gwangju Biennale wishes to thank all of the curators, participating artists, collectors or institutions who loaned works, and writers, photographers and installation technicians who helped make this Biennale a success.
The Gwangju Folly II, under director Nikolaus Hirsch and curators Philipp Misselwitz and Eui Young Chun, continues through the end of February, 2013.
The 5th Gwangju Design Biennale: Anything, Something directed by Young Hye Lee will run from September 6 to November 3, 2013.
Public Relations Department / Alice S. Kim
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