For the 13th Gwangju Biennale “MINDS RISING, SPIRITS TUNING”, Diogo Passarinho Studio has been commissioned to develop a scenography and spatial score for more than 50 artists and thinkers, throughout a total of 4 venues spread across the city of Gwangju. The Biennale Halls (an area of almost 8000 square meters) is the largest of the exhibition venues and it treats its five galleries as one continuous narrative, that charges visitors with sensorial strategies that help decipher the different themes on display. Imagine now you are entering a temple! We will ask you to take your shoes off, slow down and contemplate the works.
Gallery 1 – Rising Together
The first element we are faced with is a 2.4 meter high black wall, which immediately forces the visitor make a decision: to turn right or left, entering a peripheral circulation; on one side a contemporary Korean artist and on the other a series of historical works are presented. On approach the only other thing visible is a series of colourful columns, which indicate that there is something inside about to be revealed. Like a treasure chest or jewellery box, we try to create the notion of a special place within this first 2000 square meters white warehouse. As you pass the entrance wall and walk into the space, the walls guarding the gallery become lower and lower and slowly reveal its true content. The design is reminiscent of the courtyards of korean traditional private homes (Hanoks) and also the use of height and colour in Buddhist temples. This black peripheral structure is more than 100 running meters and functions as a seating area. In reality it is one gigantic social bench, that invites the visitor to sit down and absorb a first glimpse of some of the main topics of the biennial. The bench also offers an opportunity to relax, play and socialize. Further on, we have a bookshop and, of course, the ticketing and information counter. Here you can greet many of the monsters and spirits that populate this edition of the biennale; they welcome you to start the exhibition. For the very first time, this ground floor extends free access to all visitors.
Gallery 2 – Kinship of Mountains, Fields and Rivers
On the second gallery, we introduce the new architectural grammar, that has been specifically developed for this edition of the biennale, here we have been able to simultaneously showcase colossal installations and also render intimacy for smaller artworks. And by bringing in an organic way of experiencing the space, we set up constellations and relationships between artists, artworks and also venues. In this gallery we encounter a semi-circular space defined by a variety of these different elements. It is the moment where most of the architectural grammar is fully presented to the visitor. From walls to daybeds, plinths to vitrines, everything has been rethought in way to suggest an idea of spiritually and unbalance or fragility to its display. This semi-circular display of content helps us define a notion of interior and exterior (as in Gallery 1) but more important it ritualises the works, almost in a “Stonehenge”-style approach, where artworks become spirits awaiting for the next solstice. Almost as a ritual that is about to start, the visitor is found surrounded by this large circle of small structures that are being overlooked by colourful gigantic statuesque volumes.
Gallery 3 – Bodies in Desire, Beyond the Disciplinary Fold
By Gallery 3, the visitor is no longer in control of the space. A maze of tunnels made of various fabrics and transparencies compartmentalise this gallery in different ways. The level of intimacy is taken to an extreme, not only by the way visitors discover these rooms, and lose each other, but also in the way the content is presented to them. In most of these triangular shaped rooms, we have two artists and/or artworks talking with each other and the visitor becomes the third person that mediates this conversation or dialogue. One crucial aspect about the architecture of the biennale, it is its sustainable aspect, for example in this gallery, 90% of the walls are made of jute, which is a vegetable textile composed of natural fibres.The colour pallet, that we have employed in this gallery together with the seductive aspects of the different layers of material, juxtapose an idea of queerness vs military and surveillance aesthetics, which are the main themes of this floor. To correct course and help visitors find their way out, we also have created, what we call a main avenue, which leads directly to an outside bridge and surrounding park. And for the first time a gigantic window has been opened in the dated and it allows visitors to experience the park and the outdoors and create an additional moment to pause.
Gallery 4 –– Matters of Mutation
In this fourth gallery, quoting the Artistic Directors Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, the artists on display present a series “mutant beings—both microscopic and colossal—that quickly replace dated concepts of beauty, race, and western constructs of “nature”.To reflect this from a design perspective, the visitor is faced with spatial distortion and disorientation. A massive volume, is wrongly placed in the gallery and organizes a new direction of displaying the artworks. This idea is further accentuated by colouring all the existing columns and creating a grid like pattern. By doing this we introduce a notion of movement within a constricted space, where the visitor is released from previous labyrinthic circulations and is welcome to wander around again.As in Gallery 2, this space includes both microscopic and monumental content and works, all of which illustrate the fragility of the current political and economic systems in which we are living in. Video and sound, are an important design component of this space. As the light becomes dimmer throughout the galleries, they become an important navigational tool.
Gallery 5 –– Matriarchy in Motion
This last gallery is the culmination of the journey presented in this venue and it references the lower leves of shamanistic journey; a low ceiling space, emits a dark, cave-like atmosphere.
It is a moment to reset and reboot our minds, almost as if we are about to be reborn. It sets the stage for visitors who will need adjust to not only their eyes, to the exterior sunlight as they emerge, but also to mental shifts in how they perceive society moving forward. A long horizontal purple wall hides additional secret rooms, almost in a grotto style and forces the visitor to explore the space. In the middle of the gallery is an artwork which evokes an aquatic environment and this is juxtaposed by a circular blue wall (here again we revisit the idea of the circular wall of content). This time it is a fully formed circle and contains historical paintings of Dragon Queens from popular Korean mythology. Almost altar like, they are designed to tune your spirits before you face the city again and re-emerge into a world ruled by Mothers!
The studio would like to to welcome everyone to join us in this journey, whether physically, virtually or spiritually!
Gwangju Biennale, KOR
Artistic Directors: Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala
Exhibition Architecture by Diogo Passarinho Studio
Team: Diogo Passarinho, Juliana Knoblich, Andrea Belosi
Artworks by ∞OS (Dmitry Paranyushkin and Koo Des)*, Pacita Abad, Korakrit Arunanondchai*, Katarina Barruk*, Farid Belkahia, Cecilia Bengolea, Seyni Camara*, Quishile Charan & Esha Pillay (aka The Bad Fiji Gyals), Yin-Ju Chen & Li-Chun Lin (Marina)*, Ali Cherri, Hyun-Taek Cho*, Vaginal Davis*, Cian Dayrit*, Emo de Medeiros, Patricia Domínguez, Theo Eshetu*, Gerard Fortuné, John Gerrard, Sonia Gomes, Trajal Harrell*, Femke Herregraven*, Lynn Hershman Leeson*, Tishan Hsu, Gözde Ilkin*, Jeong Kwan, Jumaadi, Karrabing Film Collective*, Sangdon Kim*, Sylbee Kim*, Timoteus Anggawan Kusno*, Kwak Duck-Jun, Gap-Chul Lee, Kangseung Lee*, Sangho Lee, Liliane Lijn, Candice Lin*, Vivian Lynn, Abu Bakarr Mansaray*, Angela Melitopoulos*, Ana María Millán*, Min Joung-Ki*, Ad Minoliti*, Moon Kyungwon*, MOON & JEON, Siyabonga Mthembu*, nasa4nasa*, Pedro Neves Marques, Kira Nova*, Fernando Palma Rodríguez*, People’s Archive of Rural India – PARI, Rajni Perera*, Outi Pieski*, Angelo Plessas*, Gala Porras-Kim*, Ana Prvački*, Judy Radul*, Sahej Rahal*, Zofia Rydet, Jacolby Satterwhite, Arpita Singh, Tcheu Siong, Chrysanne Stathacos*, Alexandra Sukhareva, Shannon Te Ao, Sissel Tolaas*, Cecilia Vicuña*, Ouattara Watts, Shen Xin*, Tuguldur Yondonjamts* (* denotes new commissions)
Graphic Identity: WORKS and Studio Remco van BladelAssociate
Assistant Curators: Joowon Park / Michelangelo Corsaro and Krisztina HunyaResearch and
Programming Associate: Özge Ersoy
Producers: Charles Gohy and Davide QuadrioEditorial Team: Young-Jun Tak and Jill Winder