The 12th Gwangju Biennale’s Imagined Borders is a guiding concept that responds to the current times of change and uncertainty by recognizing the limits of grand narratives, singular authorship and the necessity to return to the complexities of multiple voices and perspectives. Seven exhibitions, spread across the city at the Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall, the Asia Culture Center, and other historical sites, will present responses to the imagination of borders—as historical and real, experiential and abstract, imaginary and transgressive.
Referencing both the inaugural 1995 edition of the Gwangju Biennale titled Beyond the Borders and Benedict Anderson’s notion of citizenship and national identity, the exhibitions aim to question the notion of belonging and community within today’s political and planetary crises, quite markedly changed from the early days of the biennial where globalization aimed to dissolve borders. Where have our utopian visions gone? Where are we headed?
Proceeding from the position that the present is informed by the past, Clara Kim will investigate the intersection between modernism, architecture and nation-building in the mid-20th century across different geographies and contexts that explores the desire to find a place in the world and the fate of modern utopian dreams. Gridthiya Gaweewong will investigate the narratives that emerged from border conflicts and the patterns of mass-migration within Southeast Asia and beyond since the colonial period to present. Rita Gonzalez and Christine Y. Kim will examine the politics of participation and power, the digital divide, contra-internet aesthetics, and analyses of worlds with perpetually threatened access to or without internet under our current and evolving post-internet conditions. Yeon Shim Chung and Yeewan Koon will draw attention to the everyday boundaries that are mediated, fictionalized or transgressed as part of our daily lives. Sung woo Kim, Man Seok Kim, and Chong-Ok Paek in a joint show will focus on three concepts of borders through the lens of contemporary South Korean art. They will examine the psychological boundaries between the individual and the multitude, the logic of meeting and parting in relation to places and non-places of assembly, and symmetrical imagination of coexistence between human and nature. B.G. Muhn will focus on the art of North Korea to rethink the limitations of the aesthetic border between Socialist Realism art and Western concept of Art for Art’s sake. David Teh will address the Gwangju Biennale’s own history, through a series of “returns” designed to reactivate past editions in a lively dialogue with the present one.