The Third Gwangju Biennale International Curators Course

The third Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course (GBICC) has left behind three BLOGS for local writers, art lovers and artists to contribute to as their gift…an acknowledgement of the rising fate of art in Gwangju. One exposes a local art who’s who, provides in-depth interviews, and is a space for critical reviews, found at www.artfocusgwangju.tumblr.com . The purpose, Steven Matijcio stated adeptly, was to show “a lineage from traditional to contemporary art. We wanted to seed the BLOGS with art content to lay the foundation for local citizens and visitors to write about art and build an awareness that develops space for provocative topics in any artistic field, be it performance, music, video, installations, etc.”

One titled Tea Talks is exclusively video interviews that “attempts to provide an insight into the local art scene by addressing specific topics such as the Biennale’s impact, audience and local art infrastructure.” It is found at www.vimeo.com/channel/teatalks .

The third, Gwangju = Gwangju (does not equal) Gwangju went on a cultural safari, interviewing Gwangjuvians whether artists, or not. They described the thrust as taken form ideas expressed in Flaubert’s “Dictionary of Received Ideas,” meaning you will find key words in rectangles, some of which have entries a click away, and others of which have yet to be filled in. All the blogs invite local input, so it will be up to the local artists and art lovers, etc. to keep the blogs up to date, thus challenging the next crop of GBICC one-month residents to put together more of the puzzle. To contribute to this one, go to: www.gisgisnotg.tumblr.com .

This year’s ringmaster at the curator’s course was Ute Meta Bauer, the program director of M.I.T.’s “art culture and technology” program in its School of Architecture + Planning. Bauer continually praised the behind-the-scenes work of the Biennale staff, who put together an impressive line-up of professors and art professionals as lecturers. Ute has had a stellar curatorial career in her own right.

She “co-curated Documenta11, (2002) on the team of Artistic Director Okwui Enwezor. Documenta takes place every five years in Kassel (Germany) and enjoys a reputation as the exhibition that provides the broadest overview of contemporary art worldwide. Its five thematic platforms took place at various sites such as Vienna/Berlin, New Delhi, St. Lucia, Lagos and Kassel and involved more than 200 artists, filmmakers and speakers of various fields, accompanied by a series of eight publications.” http://web.mit.edu/vap/people/faculty/faculty_bauer.html
Among other triumphs, Bauer was the curator of the third iteration of the 3rd Berlin Biennale, in 2004, which “explicitly took the city’s division into East and West as its reference point, with a focus on works exploring the urban dynamics of Berlin’s artistic production, cityscape, various cultural scenes, and increasing role as an international contemporary art metropolis…The biennale has come to be seen as one of the more coherent considerations of Berlin’s locale and how art production functions within it.” http://www.formerwest.org/ResearchLibrary/3rdBerlinBiennalekomplexberlincomplexberlin

Bauer, whose genuine interest in everyone she meets comes through immediately, spread a large dose of energy, causing the class (24 curators, or students considering curatorial careers, from 19 countries) to immerse itself in Korean culture with multiple cultural excursions, and to produce the BLOGS listed above, while learning new perspectives and creating a network of their own.

Although the class came form a relatively small number of posh art schools, the variety of styles and goals allowed them to learn almost as much from each other as they did from their surroundings and instructors. One attendee, Susanne Husse, of Germany is considering a prolonged stay in Gwangju after getting a feel for the potential expansion of Gwangju’s influence in the art world.

Clearly, Kunsthalle Gwangju has established itself as a major player in promoting contemporary art, particularly in the fields of audio art (dance parties as art even!), performance art, playful installations and “Folly” the group of 10 collaborative architectural installations that ran parallel to the Design Biennale this year.

Local artists should be aware that Kunsthalle Berlin (is there a more comprehensive art institution dedicated directly to the artists?) is setting up studios and exhibition space in Leipzig exclusively for Korean artists. Logic suggests this would be an easier residency or exhibition to attain than the Berlin version, since, an artist has to be nominated by her or his national arts council in order to be considered. This German/Gwangju link can be attributed in great part to Jung, Yujin and her husband Anton Sholtz, who were instrumental in bringing Kunsthalle to Gwangju, with Jung its effervescent director.

This means that Berlin, established as a leading center for contemporary art for some time now, may, though far away, be able to join with the Biennale and the ever-expanding Gwangju Art Fair to drag Gwangju into the contemporary realm, thus expanding our city’s already stellar reputation as a center for traditional arts and crafts. Likewise, the Gwangju World Music Festival has added contemporary pizzazz to the well-known Pansori singing and traditional orchestra.

Thus, this year’s class of budding curators (some are already very established) hit Gwangju just when these annual events are positive precursors to the Asian Cultural Center, and, building or no building, are moving Gwangju up the cultural ladder.

There was a video activity (this makes sense, considering Bauer’s expertise) in which all classmates contributed videos, and close friendships were made, as gallery and exhibition collaborations bloomed.

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