February 2, 2012 - Gwangju Biennale - Roundtable: Workstation 1
February 2, 2012

Roundtable: Workstation 1

Atul Dodiya, “Bapu at Rene Block Gallery, New York, 1974,” 1998.  
Watercolour on paper.

Roundtable—9th Gwangju Biennale: Workstation 1
14 February 2012: Yongbong Culture Center, Chonnam National University, Gwangju; 10 am onwards
15 February 2012: Arthall, Artsonje Center, Seoul; 3 pm onwards

Conceived as discursive platforms, the workstations will be enacted as mobilising journeys that are integral to the biennale, with the exhibition itself seen as an ongoing project.


Workstation 1: Self-organisation as Ethic

Is it possible to push back the originary horizon of the contemporary as institutionally mandated, and to create a temporal disjuncture, so that the biennale can simultaneously make a wager on the future as well as a reshaping claim on the past? One of the ways in which this can be achieved is by disrupting the ‘institutional logic of repetition’ (which generates a momentum of iterative continuity and a centripetal accumulation of authority through the sheer editionality of the biennial) with the ‘participatory logic of recursion’ (a form of self-critical disruption and a centrifugal diffusion of dissidence produced from successive curatorial and theoretical ruptures and renewals of the biennial) (Adajania & Hoskote 2010).

The first Workstation will leak the Gwangju Biennale’s archive into the present, by retrieving the 2002 edition directed by Sung Wan Kyung and co-curated by Charles Esche and Hou Hanru. This edition eschewed conventional ideas of exhibition-making that privileged the artwork and the artistic genius above everything else, and replaced these with a wide range of artist initiatives and alternative art spaces from Asia and Europe.

Emerging from this act of re-visitation, we would like to re-examine different forms of artistic resistance premised on self-organisation, collectivity, and contingency. Through this act of ‘participatory recursion’, we will contextualise the reasons for the burgeoning of these alternative sites of art-making and communal self-making (premised on a critical and empathetic being-with-others) in the early 2000s. However, we shall also assess the validity, relevance and limitations of collective and collaborative forms of art-making today.

This Workstation proposes that the ‘act of self-organisation be seen as an ethic’, not merely as a format of collective action and revolution. In fact, such an ethic is present in the origin and genesis of the Gwangju Biennale—which resides in an act of heroic self-organisation, the May 18, 1980 uprising in Gwangju. This uprising heralded a political upheaval that culminated in the democratization of South Korea. It also prompted a cultural response that commemorates this spirit of dissensus, of a new and alternative beginning which every edition of the Gwangju Biennale incarnates.

That said, it must be clear that this Workstation will not merely romanticise the Gwangju uprising. Rather, it wishes to invoke the uprising as an example of a productive impetus to cultural production, arising from the ground of a specific politics, and phrased as an other to the existing international frameworks and mediascapes in which contemporary culture is produced. This is especially important in a historical situation like the present, when such readymade, media-manufactured phenomena as the Arab Spring are being presented as exemplars to be followed in all societies that suffer repression or oppression, and being celebrated as such by cultural practitioners. This is not to downplay the obvious popular struggles inscribed within the Arab Spring, but to point out that to be truly responsive to its circumstances, cultural production must retain its criticality towards all conditions of existence and representation, including those that seem to give it a measure of freedom. “Self-organisation, as a format, can be manipulated by larger political and economic systems. But self-organisation, as an ethic, continuously unknots and remakes all systems of control and domination.”

Speakers: Charles Esche, Gerardo Mosquera, Maria Hlavajova, WHW (Natasa IIic), Markus Miessen, Dmitry Vilensky (Chto delat), Minouk Lim, Nikolaus Hirsch, Taek-Gwang Lee, Bassam el Baroni, Alia Swastika, Heejin Kim

Six co-artistic directors are from Korea, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, and Qatar. Nancy Adajania is a Bombay-based cultural theorist and independent curator; she is also research scholar-in-residence at BAK, Utrecht. Wassan Al-Khudhairi is the Director and Chief curator at Mathaf : Arab Museum of Art, Doha, Qatar. Mami Kataoka is a curator and writer and the Chief Curator of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. Sunjung Kim is a Seoul-based curator and professor at the Korea National University of Arts. Carol Yinghua Lu is an art critic and curator who lives and works in Beijing. She is a contributing editor for Frieze. Alia Swastika is a curator, project manager, and writer based in Jakarta ; she curated Jogia Biennale XI (2011).

For more information, please visit the Gwangju Biennale website:  www.gb.or.kr

Media contact:

Gwangju Biennale
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