The 11th Gwangju Biennial will open in 2016 and Maria Lind, director of Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm, has been appointed chief curator. The Biennial launched in 1995, which makes it the oldest of its kind in Asia. Previously it has focused on South Korean society, democracy and dialogue. This upcoming edition appears to have retained an ambition to draw the audience in with site- and context-specific works. The homepage tells us that there are expectations that Lind, as a curator, will «harmonize» local and global ambitions, or, as they put it «local and global culture.»
– My proposal advocates especially tapping into the ability of art to tell us about the future. Intense mediation is also central here, as is a desire to carefully consider the spatial design of the exhibition. Since the venue for the Biennial is large and has multiple stories there are many options for how to approach it, Maria Lind tells Kunstkritikk.
– In general I think that we, in the art world today tend to attach far too much weight to the past, it is part of a fixation on «commemorialism» that plagues our age. This has been a theme in our Tensta Museum – Reports from the new Sweden. Art can make matters more complex and contradictory, which is important for generating new ideas and modes of action as well as for embodying fantasies, according to Lind.
Maria Lind has previously curated Manifesta 2 in Luxembourg in 1998, together with Robert Fleck and Barbara Vanderlinden, and the UKS Biennial in Oslo in 1998, together with Sössa Jörgensen. Earlier this year she co-curated the Vienna Biennale, Ideas for Change, where she was responsible for the Future Light module that revolves around the attraction to individual rationality and belief in the future in contemporary art, while also exploring fragmented identities and queerness. Future Light consisted of an exhibition with Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, a larger group show with Ane Hjort Guttu, Claire Barclay and Doug Ashford, among others, as well as newly commissioned works by Marysia Lewandowska, Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri and STEALTH.unlimited.
– In part Future Light opposes the idea that art is supposed to affect some type of concrete change. This is a far too instrumentalist view that might possibly be applied to architecture and design, but not as easily to art, says Lind, who maintains that while art can contribute to change, this should not be a demand or expectation imposed from above.
– It is well known that not only has the number of biennials exploded since the early 1990s, they have moved toward various types of marketing, Lind continues, and maintains that biennials have a tendency to absorb both public and private funding to the detriment of ongoing activities. This often contributes to the dominance of art’s populist and spectacular aspects, she says.
– At the same time biennials present an opportunity to do research – something that is becoming increasingly rare in curatorial work – as well as to create an exhibition that makes a powerful statement. Biennials can become amplifiers and they are interesting today because they can make space for other types of art and curatorial stances, in an art world that has become more and more one-sided and oriented toward entertainment. In relation to the big biennials Gwangju can at best be «smaller, » in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari, according to Lind.
Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm has a clear focus on international contemporary art, while also running pedagogical programs aimed at community groups and schools in Tensta. At times this has been discernable in the works shown at the at the space, as with Petra Bauer’s and Sofia Widberg’s project Rehearsals: 8 Acts on the Politics of Listening, that was performed together with members of the organization Tensta-Hjulsta Womens’ Center and which took the shape of an installation and eight dance and performance acts at the art space.
– Our ambition at Tensta Konsthall is to be a «generous spearhead. » In other words, to be focused on art and artists and to work with the most complex, advanced, difficult, seductive, absurd and distinctive contemporary art, while also communicating it in ways that can be meaningful in Tensta, as well as in broader circles. One core tenet is that there is no inherent contradiction between working with this type of art and maintaining a palpable presence in daily life in a place like Tensta.
– The ways in which the team at Tensta Konsthall works will certainly be echoed in how things will happen with the Gwangju Biennial, Lind says.
The Gwangju Biennial is founded in memory of the protests against a repressive military junta that took place in the city in 1980. The Gwangju uprising was a grassroots resistance movement that was brutally subdued by the US-supported South Korean army soon after it had come to power through a coup in 1979. An estimated 2000 people died in the protests.
– The Gwangju uprising will definitely be part of the biennial in some form. It is especially interesting to regard it in light of various popular uprisings across the world in the last few decades. Including the part that art and artists have played in them, Lind says.