PEOPLES’ RESPONSE TO THE GWANGJU BIENNALE 2010

Upon learning that the Biennale would host a new exhibition entitled 10,000 Lives, I was immediately intrigued. The name implied that it would somehow portray the lives of numerous people, but I had no idea how or in what form this would be. I assumed that the exhibition would incorporate different types of media, perhaps photography, sculpture, and some form of painting; however, I was not prepared for what 10,000 Lives had to offer. With five galleries filled with works from all over the world, pieces were created from medias such as film, found items, and welding in addition to the aforementioned forms .

As stated on the Biennale’s website, 10,000 Lives was created to explore the relationships between people and images. While this was obvious, I thought there were several pieces that demonstrate the capacity of human beings. Some pieces clearly exemplify this, such as Thomas Hirschhorn’s Embedded Fetish and Zhao Shutang, Wang Guanyi, and the Rent Collection Courtyard’s Rent Collection Courtyard. In different ways, they express torment, judgment, and suffering for reasons beyond people’s control and to an extent which most people cannot imagine. The most striking works, in my opinion, were the photographs from Tuol Sleng Prison which were taken during the horrific reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Taken by sixteen year old Nhem Ein, they encompass the fear, desperation, and grief of 100 of the 6,000+ individuals who were ultimately murdered after their picture was taken. The photographs in the collection show the range of people who were targeted by the Khmer Rouge, and make us wonder, “what could possibly be this person’s crime?” For even those who are unaware of the genocide in Cambodia, a mere glimpse at one of the prisoner’s photographs gives insight into the terror inflicted by the Khmer Rouge.

While the collection of pieces were not what I had initially anticipated seeing, I was surprised at the diversity among the artists and the wonderful work that they had to offer. The scope of 10,000 Lives is truly astounding and is definitely worth the visit.

WRITTEN BY Natalie Hughes

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/11420/rent-collection-courtyard-at-gwangju-art-biennale-2010.html

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On a recent visit to the Gwangju Biennale 10,000 Lives exhibit, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my home country was represented. Having been born and raised in the most southerly county in the Republic of Ireland, Cork, I have always felt quite removed, at least geographically, from ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. However, this one video biography at the Biennale Museum, by Duncan Campbell, forced me to take notice.

As I entered the oblong, almost pitch black exhibition room, I was met with a booming Northern Irish accent of a woman protesting for her beliefs, coming from a black and white projection screen debating a not so black and white issue. This woman was Bernadette Devlin, a nationalist and political activist who became a martyr to those who followed her. She became an icon and the lines were blurred between her public and private life, which Duncan Campbell explores through his imagery. I felt compelled to take a seat and view just one of the 10,000 lives presented to me that day. Ironically, I was facing my past.

This one exhibition began to remind me where it is I come from and what my heritage is composed of. It evoked a sense of multiculturalism embedded in me, in that not only am I influenced by my own nation but also Britain. My very presence in Korea, teaching English, is by virtue of the fact that the British established their native tongue in Ireland. In saying that, I am very happy to have the cúpla focal, i.e. a couple of words in the Irish language.

It was interesting to see how a small country on the periphery of Western Europe impacts on the rest of the world and how it is acknowledged in a Korean art gallery. On closer inspection, it seems quite fitting that it should be recognised at this side of the world, as perhaps some parallels can be seen between Ireland and Korea in that they are both divided countries, where the question of unity is always in the air.

WRITTEN BY Mary Kelleher/Máire Ní Chéilleachair

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