The Korea Herald


Co-directors ramp up preparation for 2020 Gwangju Biennale

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : July 11, 2019 - 17:15

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Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, co-artistic directors of the 13th Gwangju Biennale, are gearing up for the event, slated to kick off in September 2020.

The biennale will look into the “entire spectrum of intelligence,” the two artistic directors said during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday. 

Defne Ayas (left) and Natasha Ginwala, the two artistic directors of 2020 Gwangju Biennale, speak during a press conference held in Seoul, Thursday. (Gwangju Biennale Foundation) Defne Ayas (left) and Natasha Ginwala, the two artistic directors of 2020 Gwangju Biennale, speak during a press conference held in Seoul, Thursday. (Gwangju Biennale Foundation)

“Our curatorial focus will engage with artistic approaches and scientific methods that examine the entire spectrum of intelligence -- ranging from spiritual and shaman legacies, indigenous knowledge, healing practices as well as neural network, machine learning and algorithmic regimes that are currently shaping our social world and planetary system,” Ayas said.

The two co-directors aim to incorporate diverse areas for better understanding of the nature of intelligence.

Ayas and Ginwala are currently in their first round of research for the biennial event.

During their stay here from Monday to Saturday, the two artistic directors were set to visit artists’ studios and historical sites for historical and cultural research.

They have visited Yanglim-dong, a historic district in Gwangju, the Jeonil Building in central Gwangju and local temple Mugaksa.

On Tuesday, they met with Gwangju-based artists and visited the Gwangju National Museum and Gwangju Municipal Folklore Museum, to discuss possible collaborations.

With the Gwangju Biennale falling on the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, the artistic directors said that they will shed new light on the historical event by carefully exploring the language used in the resistance.

They plan to make the historical event more relatable and applicable to the contemporary audience, in connection with other democratic and social movements around the globe.

“In the 40th year of the May Uprising and democratization movement in Gwangju, we wish to convene with propositions and observations that address strategies of dissidence through historical and contemporary vocabularies that have confronted the wielding of militarization, censorship, anti-colonial struggle and right-wing power,” the directors said.

Meanwhile, they plan on announcing their final team members, the selection of participating artists, the opening date and public programs by the time they return in October for their second round of research.

Concerning the many genres to be presented at the biennale, Ayas said that performance art, if included, will be shown in ways to “honor the living processes instead of in ways that feed spectacle economy.”

Ayas, a founding curator of Performa, a biennial of visual art performance in New York, is well known for her experimental curation of the 2015 Moscow Biennale and 2012 Baltic Triennial.

Ginwala is an associate curator at Gropius Bau in Berlin and the artistic director of the interdisciplinary arts festival Colomboscope in Sri Lanka.

Ayas and Ginwala were named artistic directors of the upcoming Gwangju Biennale in March.

By Shim Woo-hyun (