Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude

The Biennale is a discussing multitude where artists and scholars of diverse religions, ethnicities and nationalities gather to discuss the issues of humanity’s past, present and future. Unlike literature, film and other cultural domains, this is a unique stage that can only be offered through the art genre and the biennale platform.

The Busan Biennale 2016 is expecting 121 artists from 23 countries through the Project 1 and Project 2. It will be a place where art as well as architecture, design, performances and seminars come together, a scene where different views and heterogeneous languages clash and coexist. This year, the addition of F1963 (KISWIRE Suyeong Factory, approximately 9,900㎡) to the Busan Museum of Art (approximately 6,600㎡) will create the greatest scale throughout its history of Busan Biennale.

The Busan Biennale 2016 will be contisted of two exhibitions (Project 1, Project 2) and a seminar (Project 3). It will address the relationship of continuity-discontinuity-interconnection between the avant-garde system before the 90’s and the global Biennale system that spurred since the 90’s. This is the underlying question of the ‘Biennale’ as a form of exhibition and it will provide introspection and criticism on the existence of artists.

Busan Biennale 2016 Project 1


Project 1, entitled ‘an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea,’ will be held at the Busan Museum of Art. Co-curated by five curators from China, Japan and Korea, this exhibition will feature autochthonous experimental avant-garde art of China, Japan and Korea from the 1960s through the 1980s. Here, the singular ‘an’ denotes the homogeneous avant-garde spirit of China-Japan-Korea. And while the three countries shared the same avant-garde spirit, ‘other’ stresses the differences in social and political environment each had faced, giving rise to different respective forms of expression. Lastly, the three countries representing Asia in this exhibition are shown in the alphabetical order ‘china-japan-korea.’ The Project 1 will exhibit 148 artworks from 65 artists (teams), accompanied by joint archives and supporting materials on China-Japan-Korea to provide context and background of China-Japan-Korea avant-garde art within the world art history.

The China exhibition section will cover the period of resistance and conflict beginning from the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1976 to 1995, including the ‘Beijing Spring,’ the Tiananmen Squaer Massacre and the 1996 Yuanmingyuan incident.

In the case of Japan, the exhibition will cover the period from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, referred to as ‘ground zero,’ to the late 1980s to include parts of Japanese avant-garde art, Gutai group, Mono-ha and Superflat.

The Korea section addresses the relatively unknown art movement that reflected resistance and freedom against military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s and ofrmed the basis of Dansaekhwa (monochrome art) and Minjung art (people’s art).

The highly anticipated Project 1 was designed to recover the forgotten and devalued avant-garde art of China-Japan-Korea from the 1960s through the 80s, and establish its significance within the world art history. This exhibition will be the first of its kind in Korea as well as Asia and the rest of the world. Through Project 1, I hope that autochthonous avant-garde art of China-Japan-Korea will be re-discovered and restored as part of the world art history.

Lastly, many scholars from Asia as well as Europe and South America will be participating in the academic program (Project 3) which will run alongside the exhibition. I hope this biennale will serve to examine the true nature of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean avant-garde art and arrive at re-evaluation of their historical and aesthetic values.

China <Avant-garde art in China 1976-1995>

In 1976, the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution came to an end in China. At the cusp of such historically and politically significant moment, the redefinition and new departure for Chinese contemporary art was underway.

From 1949 to 1976, politics (icons) has occupied an important position in artistic production. However, in the post ? “public square” era of 1976, a new era was imminent. Meanwhile, how would knowledge on artistic practice be constructed and disseminated? How would the spiritual shift and psychological evolution as the artists confront the shifts in their era be expressed? How would the artist make an impact on the various philosophical thinking and the impact of social and cultural ideals through their own means? How would they determine and absorb these different implications and understanding of ideas? To answer all of these questions, many Chinese art historians have proposed various views and conclusions in the last three decades of experimenting and exploration in contemporary Chinese art (since 2009), as well as a number of exhibitions explored this subject.

This exhibition was curated on the basis of such general discussion, by looking back at the inception and the historical context in which such art experiments took place, mapping out the genesis of Chinese contemporary art through the transformation of social and historical process, thus the exhibition aims to provide an opportunity to respond to a number of issues pertinent in Chinese art.

GUO Xiaoyan
Vice-director, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum
Project 1 Curator (China)

Japan <Avant-garde Art in Japan After War>

The avant-garde in Japan was introduced by foreign travelers into Japan shortly after World War I slightly later than in Europe. Then in 1930s avant-garde movement reached its peak in 1930s with Dadaism and Surrealism at the center. However, this movement changed its affiliated function as the military in Japan gained force and artistic circles cooperated with the national policy. Then the movement faded rapidly, disappearing in early 1940s. In this meaning, the avant-garde in Japan was being decimated once again. But the avant-garde in the art of Japan could be revived by Okamoto Taro, challenging the artistic circles in Japan which attempted to return to the precedent form without the liquidation of the past after War.

However, the avant-garde that Okamoto argued was based on the ‘denial’ not embodiment. So his followers interpreted avant-garde movement as the activity 'not to imitate others' or 'to do something different from others'. Taking this opportunity, avant-garde arts in Japan emerged variously enough to call it 'blazing flower'. This is the reason why the trend emerging from 1950s to 1960s like 'Group Gutai', 'Group Kyushu', 'Anti-art' or 'Mono-ha' are near to self-denying radicalism rather than avant-garde'. At the same time the subject that radicalism depends on but rebels against is the rapid economic growth in Japan and its symbols are Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 and Osaka International Fair in 1970. When these festivals led by the national policy ended, objects that they were against disappeared and at the same time rapid economic growth was shadowed. As a result, the avant-garde in Japan after 1970s escaped from radicalism and came close to nihilism rapidly. In addition, after the mechanism to drive its economy was shifted from production to consumption in 1980s, post-avant-garde emerged to simulate subculture with deja vu without pursuing something new like in the past as the response to the economy in Japan where the mechanism lost the existence and changed to bubble. However, the origin of everything was the point of oblivion in the history of defeat in the war and its symbol must be 'Japanese Constitution' and 'Hiroshima and Nagasaki of bombed area'

Critique of Art
Project 1 Curator (Japan)

Korea <Korea's Avant-Garde Movement: A Rebellious Escape>

The Korean section of an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea in the Busan Biennale 2016 sheds light on the works of artists who, from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, raised questions concerning the established systems and pursued avant-garde experimental works to overcome them. During this period, grand discourses mostly featured Dansaekhwa (Korean monochrome painting) and Minjung misul (People’s art) or formalism modernism and social realism. This section focuses primarily on a group of artists who explored new idioms in a realm between these two grand subjects and their activities. This section is intended to display the works of artists who have seriously considered the correlation between the two art movements on the border between form and content. It also tries to re-evaluate the diverse potentials of contemporary Korean art through reinterpretations of such art forms’ relatively non-uniform experimental traits. In doing so it aims to elucidate the origin of multifarious contemporary Korean art after the 2000s by examining the characteristics and attributes of Korean avant- garde art amid the streams of avant-garde art connected to the small-group activities of the 1980s such as the Korean Young Artists Association Exhibition, the Fourth Group, AG Group, the Daegu Contemporary Art Festival, Hyuck Group, ST Group, and Meta-Vox Group.

KIM Chan-Dong
Director, Museum Headquarters of Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Project 1 Curator (Korea)

Busan Biennale 2016 Project 2

Hybridizing Earth,
Discussing Multitude

The digital technology that transcends time and space and makes networking possible has tied the earth into a single community, integrating the world into a single market. Within an app installed on our smartphones, 10 billion people around the world transcend their religious, ethnical and national boundaries and are networked together. Humanity is currently living in a ‘generation of multitude’ that no other generation has ever experienced.

It came to me that a biennale gathering artists and scholars of diverse religions, ethnicities and nationalities to discuss the issues of humanity’s past, present and future would be the most suitable form of exhibition for this generation of multitude. Unlike literature, film and other cultural domains, this is a unique stage that can only be offered through the art genre and the biennale platform. The Busan Biennale’s theme of ‘Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude’ is well aligned to this concept. The ‘affluent but impoverished’ world resulting from hybridization of tradition and modern; human and nature; East and West; analog and digital; capital and technology; is what a hybridizing earth is. It is a place that must never be reduced to capital and technology, and a place where mankind confronting reality begins their resistance and escape.

‘Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude’ is a place of discussing possibilities. It is an inconvenient and distressing place that reflects on inefficiencies of the market and human irrationality, and on art’s vulnerability to the market and its system. Like Walter Benjamin’s melancholy, perhaps a document of civilization is a document of barbarism at the same time. I hope this Busan Biennale will be the same.

YUN Cheagab
Artistic Director of Busan Biennale 2016