800,000 Visitors Attend the Gwangju Design Biennale
With the theme “Design is Design is Not Design,” the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale featured six main exhibitions: Urban Follies, Unnamed Design, Named Design, Community, Biennale City, and the Academy. Inspired by the first lines of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, the Biennale’s exploration of the politics of commercialization and commodification of the design industry caused a great sensation. In particular, the Gwangju Design Biennale invited ten world-renowned architects, including Peter Eisenman, to participate in the inaugural Gwangju Folly project, which constructed permanent public architectural installations across the city of Gwangju. The Gwangju Biennale Foundation plans to continue this project in subsequent years.
As co-artistic directors Ai Weiwei and Seung Hyosang were preparing for the Biennale, Ai Weiwei was suddenly detained by his home government for 81 days. A global outcry of artists, practitioners and institutions responded to Ai’s unexpected detention with an extensive movement demanding his release. Along with over 30 art institutions around the world, including New York’s Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), London’s Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), the Gwangju Design Biennale actively petitioned for Ai’s release. The Gwangju Design Biennale is truly grateful to all the institutions that participated in the movement for Ai’s release.
The Unnamed exhibition co-curated by Ai Weiwei and Brendan McGetrick presented a thought-provoking challenge to traditional notions of design, introducing new cultural, political, and aesthetic concepts and practices. As Alice Rawsthorn wrote in the New York Times: “The show argues that design is not solely the preserve of professional designers but can also be the work of scientists, activists, computer programmers, hackers and anyone else who applies ingenuity, originality, strategic thinking and other qualities that are indispensable to good design.”
The Gwangju Design Biennale wishes to thank all of the curators and participating artists and designers, collectors and institutions who loaned works for the exhibition, writers, photographers and installation technicians for making this Biennale a success. 2012 Gwangju Biennale co-directed by Wassan Al-Khudairi (director, Arab Museum of Modern Art Mathaf, Doha), Nancy Adajania (independent curator, Mumbai), Mami Kataoka (chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo), Sunjung Kim (director, Samuso, Seoul), Carol Yinghua Lu (writer & curator, Beijing) and Alia Swastika (curator, Jogja Biennale, Indonesia) will take place in September 7, 2012.