26 December 2010

Dream - Landscape

Here is a painting that I finished yesterday, on Christmas.

I dreamed the landscape a few months ago, and I can say that so far it was probably the most colorful dream that I ever had.

I tried hard to remember it, and finally yesterday I made a painting after it to not forget the feeling that I had during my dream.

16 December 2010

Cover Design

Cover design for the newly published collection of poems by prof. Park Youngsuk

09 December 2010

Gwangju and the Gwangju Biennale 2010

When I hear the word Gwangju, usually I think about two major events: the Gwangju massacre from the 80’s and the Gwangju Biennale.

Before South Korea experienced its contemporary democratic regime after the 1990’s, the country was kept for decades under military dictatorship. Out of the numerous anti-dictatorial movements that pursued the achievement of a democratic regime, the Gwangju Democratic Movement is considered to be the main effort toward democratization. It marked the contemporary history of the nation, and left a scar in the background of Gwangju City. The Gwangju Democratic Movement was the climax of tumultuous events that marked South Korea after the assassination of controversial President Park Chung-hee. The uprising in the city of Gwangju in May 1980 against Dictator Chun Doo-hwan ended with the intervention of the South Korean army, and with the death of hundreds of civilians.

Park around the Gwangju Biennale expo halls

 The second event that pops up about Gwangju is the notorious Gwangju Biennale, Korea’s most important international art event, and probably Asia’s most relevant biennale. Held every two years since 1995 [with a 3 years gap between 1997-2000] the event takes place at about 300 km south of Korean capital city Seoul, in Gwangju city. It also alternates with the more recent Gwangju Design Biennale that is held during the odd years. The Gwangju Biennale is an event that although is being held in a provincial city, it brings tens of thousands of tourist from all over the country, and also numerous international visitors. This year it gathered more than 100 000 visitors in the first three weeks from its opening.

This year’s event, the 8th Gwangju Biennale, was held between the 3rd of September and the 7th of November, and it took place in the same year with the 30th anniversary of the Gwangju massacre. This edition of the expo was entitled “10 000 Lives” [만인보 - Maninbo] a title inspired by Korean writer Ko Un’s novel with the same title. His main composition, “10 000 Lives” represents a collection of epic poems consisting of 30 volumes, written during his imprisonment for participating in the Gwangju Democratic Movement. The poems are built up as portraits of all the people that the author Ko Un met during his life. Today Ko Un, one of the most respected Korean writers is considered to have real chances for receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, and although his opera is extremely wide, “10 000 Lives” remains his main creation.  .

The artistic director of this year’s event was Massimiliano Gioni, an Italian curator who although is still young, already gained valuable experience by participating in numerous world-class events. While so far the most relevant event that he participated in as a curator remains the Venice Biennale 2003, his curatorial backgrounds reach far beyond the boundaries of Europe. Starting from the theme “10 000 Lives,” he came up with a coherent curatorial project, encompassing the works of about 134 artists from various countries, bringing together over 9 000 artworks made between 1901 and 2010.

As the title “10 000 Lives” already suggests, the curatorial project is centered on the relation of people with images, and vice versa - images with people. The artworks selected for the exhibition are generally representing human life and it seems like portraiture was favored due to its direct connection with this year’s temporary exhibition’s theme. The Italian curator avoided to bring into scene the last editions’ fancy installations and futuristic artworks, favoring the traditional media, more suitable for the expo’s theme. He managed to bring together a stunning amount of images and expressed his curatorial vision clearly while creating a harmonious exhibition with a well exploited concept.

Once the visitor enters the exhibition space, he is exposed to thousands of images mostly featuring portraiture under various forms and themes: images of idols, imaginary figures, anonymous faces, dolls, puppets, masks, posters, ads etc. The selection encompasses various techniques from traditional painting and sculpture to the innovative new media installations, ready-mades and performances; however dominant are photography and video - probably the best suitable for the theme of the expo due to mélange of artistic and documentary qualities.

"Visible World" by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss

 The repetition of thousands and thousands of photos, and numerous videos creates somewhat a monotony that makes many of the visitors to skip most of the videos that require tens of minutes of viewing time. It also pushes on many spectators to just walk by the exhibited rows of photos passively, focusing on few images out of hundreds exhibited as groups. However, memorable were the 3000 small photos laid on light tables entitled `Visible World’’ by Peter Fischli and David Weiss depicting people, objects and especially urban and natural landscapes from all over the world. 

Furthermore, another artistic project that managed to exploit well the qualities of photography and interact efficiently with the public was the project of Franco Vaccari. His project got built up during the event by asking visitors to take free passport sized photos in photo cabins placed inside the expo hall. The images were posted on the walls covering the exhibition space and leaving a trace of the public’s visit at the biennale.

project of Franco Vaccari

However, instead of being held up for long time in front of the groups of hundreds of images, the viewers seemed to be much more interested about the far more captivating new media artworks, installations and ready-mades, although their number was relatively low. No wonder, taking in account that the Korean public seems to be accustomed with numerous media and digital art festival/expos. These events comprise artworks that involve the viewer not just visually but also sentimentally by interacting with all the five senses, leaving often stronger impressions on the long term. Talking about artworks that imply the public emotionally, I believe the 2010 Gwangju Biennale’s most impressive art project was a combination of performance and media installation made by Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic. The artwork integrated itself perfectly into the theme of the expo, and also gained a special value for making a direct link to Gwangju’s history. A number of screens lined up by the walls of the exhibition hall were showing slideshows of photos of people who died during the Gwangju Massacre. The people appearing in the images were all represented with closed eyes, after the images were digitally modified. In front of these screens, through a performance offered day by day, the Gwangju movement’s hymn was hummed by about 10 performers appearing as a group of living statues meant to symbolize a monument for the Gwangju democratic movement.

Outstanding was also the project of Tehching Hsieh, who starting from 1980 for an entire year photographed himself day by day, hour by hour to capture the changes suffered by his body throughout a year. Finally, the photos were used to create a few minutes long video showing the process of changing, while the thousands of photos created were exhibited around the hall, grouped chronologically.

Spectacular was the artwork exhibited by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, representing a life size woman packed up in a wooden box prepared for delivery with an inscription spelling “fragile.” However spectacular, satirical and metaphorical it may be considered, the artwork of the world-class Cattelan seemed to be easily eclipsed by the live art performance of Tino Sehgal that took place in front of Cattelan’s exhibit.

An exhibit that although didn’t seemed to attract the general public, intrigued me both through its meaning and the origin of the artist. I’m talking about Romanian artist Irinia Botea, who participated with a 24 minutes video entitled “Auditions for a Revolution,” showing a number of people from various countries reading texts written in Romanian. The subjects of the texts were related to the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the event that marked the fall of communism in the East European country. The actions and the lines read by the actors of the film seemed to be foreign for most of the Korean public that lacked the historical background info necessary to comprehend Irina Botea’s video. Furthermore, although the film has a clear idea related to a major political event, Botea’s exhibit may be described as a relatively disappointing artwork. Similarly with so many other Romanian artists’ recent works, Botea’s video proves the lack of creativity of producing something that doesn’t talk about the already over exploited subject of the Revolution. I wonder how many generations of Romanian artists will need to pass until that country will be able to produce a truly world scale contemporary artist who doesn’t build up his success on the eye catching and spectacular subject of former Romanian communism, or the pseudo-Romanian culture’s icon - Dracula.

Moving forward, I would stop to say a few words about the exhibited items of Andy Warhol. I have to admit that so far I had numerous chances to see the well-known prints of Warhol through galleries, art fairs and other expos in Korea, so just like most of the people I started to think about Warhol as a repetitive artist, a Warhol name that doesn’t stand for a person, but rather a commercially successful industry. However, Gwangju 2010 showed a different, intimate face of Andy Warhol. The exhibits were objects that he collected throughout his life, packing them in tens of boxes with the intention of selling them later as traces of his existence. However, they were never sold, and some of the items remained to be exhibited, showing intimate letters, books, objects that belonged to his mother, posters and many other things.

Throughout its five large galleries, a folk museum and an art museum the 2010 Gwangju Biennale brings together artworks, artifacts and documents lined up in a coherent manner, with a clear artistic message. The successful curatorial project blurs the boundaries among the exhibited genres and styles, exploring humanity’s obsession to produce images, collect images and leave images behind. As the organizers themselves describes, images become a symbol of an ephemeral life, carrying memories and nostalgia.

For more photos, full list of participating artists and more info check the Official Website of the Gwangju Biennale here.
The photos posted here have informative purpose. Please do not copy or publish them.