The Gwangju Biennale Foundation presents to where the flowers are blooming in Venice

to where the flowers are blooming

to where the flowers are blooming
Gwangju Biennale 5.18 Democratization Movement special exhibition

April 20–November 27, 2022

Opening and press preview: April 20, 4–7pm, by invitation

Spazio Berlendis
Calle Berlendis, 6301
30121 Venice

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation and the City of Gwangju present to where the flowers are blooming, a 5.18 Democratization Movement special exhibition in Venice at Spazio Berlendis from April 20 to November 27, 2022.

A celebration of the 5.18 Democratization Movement, to where the flowers are blooming began in Seoul, Korea, in May 2020 and toured Taipei, Cologne, and Gwangju to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the movement and reflect on the history and contemporaneity of the spirit of Gwangju, which drove Korea’s democratization. After two years of postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition has finally arrived in Venice.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the phrase “to where the flowers are blooming” from the final chapter of Han Kang’s novel Human Acts, which deals with the lasting trauma of May 1980 on Gwangju and questions which historical memories must be most tightly held onto. The show explores how human communities rise above the vivid memories of anguish and historical tragedy and proceed forward toward a better world.

Curated by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation’s exhibition department, the exhibition is composed of three sectionsThe first is an archive curated by Yoo Kyoungnam, a researcher at the 5.18 Institute of Chonnam National University, which introduces the legacy of the 5.18 Democratization Movement in GwangjuThe second section is composed of works commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale and surveys the city’s history, memories, trauma, and spiritual heritage in line with its historical sites; it features works produced through intensive research on the city and the democratization movement. Kader Attia’s Shifting Borders sheds light on political and social irrationalities in history as it seeks remedies for the traumas caused in the process, while Ho Tzu Nyen’s The 49th Hexagram captures civil struggles and revolutions in Korean modern and contemporary history. Bae Young-hwan presents Pop Song: March for the Beloved, ver.2, a video installation incorporating paving blocks inscribed with lyrics from “March for the Beloved,” a song that has been frequently sung at democratization protests, including the 5.18 movement.

The third section, which reflects on the democratization movement in Gwangju and modern-day activism, begins with Hong Sung-dam’s May Print Series, which captures scenes from May 1980. The artist has compiled 50 woodblock prints documenting the movement and Gwangju residents at the time, adding a self-written poem to compose a book that tells the story of 5.18. Noh Suntag’s Forgetting Machines captures the fading portraits of Gwangju’s Mangwol-dong cemetery, where the victims of the 5.18 movement are buried, as a reminder of the passing of time and our ignorance of history. Ahn Chang Hong’s Arirang Series follows the traces of upheaval in Korean modern and contemporary history that has accumulated inside ordinary people. Choi Sun’s work containing human breath reminds viewers that democracy, like air, must be lived and breathed. The Politics of Memory by Jin Meyerson links a painting to a memorial site in Gwangju via an AR overlay to redefine communities and history in this age of social media by connecting memory and physical location. As Kim Chang-hun’s SHINE: Gwangju Soundscape brings to Venice sounds from major sites of the 5.18 Democratization Movement—the old Jeollanam-do Provincial Office, the commercial agent’s office, the 5.18 National Cemetery, and Chonnam National University—Park Hwayeon channels Gwangju residents’ memories of 5.18 through a reconstruction of the square in front of the old Jeollanam-do Provincial Office in the exhibition space. Meanwhile, Suh Dasom’s meal kit shares with viewers the history of Gwangju residents who made individual contributions to protect their community from the cruelty and horrors of May 1980.

At a time when humanity is facing various challenges accompanied by increased discrimination and hate, to where the flowers are blooming will serve as an opportunity for us to share our thoughts and seek future directions with artistic language and imagination as our media.

Read more about Gwangju Biennale