INHABITING THE WORLD, BUSAN BIENNALE 2014
After the thrills of the Gwangju biennale, Busan was always going to be difficult to match.
It didn't help that from my initial research, I had already formed an opinion about it that was not entirely positive.
Like Gwangju, it had followed the standard biennale model of an international director, a healthy mix of Korean, Asian and international art and the obligatory catchy title. However, Inhabiting the World seemed ambiguious and at times, obscure. Director Oliver Kaeppelin had attempted to show that 'artists may have more efficient, sustainable anaylsis and alterations for various social issues and transformations than experts of a certain field or academics' (Kaeppellin, 2014). What that meant exactly, I did not know.
The main exhibition was a sedate, calm affair housed in the grand Busan Museum of Art. There were several stand out works that I have detailed below but overall, I felt the exhbition was too spread out and the artworks too far apart to to encourage the visitor to ponder how they might relate.
What did end up being more interesting was the satellite exhbition Asian Curatorial, curated by four young Asian artists and housed in a working steel factory on the other side of the city. It was a display of the diverse and experimental art scene of young, emerging artists and felt enormously more exciting to visit. Our tour only afforded us two hours here but I could easily have spent more.
A final exhibition at the Busan Cultural Centre entitled Voyage to Biennale - 50 Years of Korean Contemporary Art in Overseas Biennales was interesting from an historical perspective but contributed little to the curatorial theme.
OPEN AT LAST
Even the exhibition catalogue acknowledged the controversy that had engulfed the selection of its director, Olivier Kaeppelin. This admission was probably the most understandable sentence in the entire catalogue. The rest of it appeared to have either been written in high level art waffle or run into English using Google translator.
ACCUMULATION - SEARCHING FOR DESTINY
CHIHARU SHIOTA, 2014 400 hundred vintage suitcases suspended from the ceiling at different heights using red rope; some high above heads whilst others almost skim the ground. It represents displaced people where an entire life has been hurriedly forced into the contents of a suitcase and suggests a mingling of cultures and peoples who, for a time, share similar lives. An expression of how history deals with wars and the connection between people who need to move forwards together.
ANGE LECCIA, 2014 One thing this biennale did do better than the others was its presentation of video works. Floor to ceiling, black, heavy, velvety curtains beckoned you to pull aside and step inside. Great big spaces, enormous projection screens, splendid sound systems and ample floor space to sit in complete darkness and become immersed. A perfect place to be hypnotised by this 47 minute film of the structural shapes created by waves when filmed from above.
ADRIAN PACI, 2013 This film follows the transformative journey of a single piece of marble quarried from China as it makes the sea voyage to Italy. Along the way, it is hacked and chiselled into a single column. The continious soundtrack of the pulsating engine permeated the whole film. The buzz and vibrations gave the marble life making it more human. It was possible to admire the skillmanship of the workers carving the marble whilst feeling you were watching a sequence of kidnapandtort
SOUND FOR INSOMNIAC
SU-MEI TSE, 2007
LE VENT PARADIS II
BERNARD MONINOT, 2014
DIRECTIONS ON A POST IT
The satellite exhibition, Asian Curatorial, curated by five young Asian artists, displayed the diverse and experimental art scene of emerging artists. It was already a more interesting exhibition as I climbed into a taxi and presented my post it note of directions. The exhibition was housed in a steel factory in an obscure part of the city. Before even stepping inside, I already liked its premise and its attitude. It felt young, fresh, kooky.
DONG YUAN, 2014 Tens of little canvases individually painted with items from her grandmother's house assembled together to create a warm memory. Like Dust to Dust, 2014 by Mircea Sucui in Gwangju, I was fascinated by this piece; the artist's skill, the attention to detail but moreover, the human instinct to archive, commemorate and remember.
THE TANK PROJECT
HE XIANGYU, 2011-2013
DONG YUAN, 2014
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
SEAN GLADWELL, 2013 I am a big fan of Gladwell's work but this disappointed me. Five films simultaneously broadcast on five small screens. It was difficult to take in all at once. It was also unfortunately placed on a wall near the entrance that was hit by direct sun when many of the other video works were in separate rooms on large projections screens that gave them their full effect.
This projection was created using a simple large piece of plywood propped against the wall. The picture quality was ideal. I liked that it was low to the floor inviting viewers to sit before it or at least stoop downwards to engage and watch.
DIGITAL BOOK PROJECT
KANG AIRAN, 2014
CHUN KYUNGWOO, 2008 I particularly enjoyed works about Korean history which I found interesting and educational. I did wonder if the appeal extended to Korean visitors or if they were unmoved by seeing familiar Korean images, similar to how Australians would rather not see another image of a kangaroo.
APPROACH THE TRUTH
SHIN KIWOUN, 2012
BAD BOLLARDS, PART 2
Busan took a far more subtle approach to the signposting and protection of art works. Thankfully, there were very few bollards and the ones that I did see where silver, solid and classy. Instead of excessive bollard use, it instead attempted to direct visitors around the exhibition which to me was the perfect reason to go entirely the other way.
THE TEN TRADITIONAL SYMBOLS OF LONGEVITY YOO HYUNMI, 2011