It has been said that we are experiencing an intelligence explosion that is broadly understood as the emergence of superintelligence. And yet, questions abound: where precisely can organic intelligence be found? To what extent can it be pursued in the human brain and also in the heart, as the Korean term, would imply? Let us avow, then, the dissemination of the “communal mind”—continuously emergent and rooted in healing technologies, indigenous life-worlds, matriarchal systems, animism, and anti-systemic kinship.
Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning sets out to examine the spectrum of the extended mind through artistic and theoretical means. Directed by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, the 13th Gwangju Biennale (26 February–9 May, 2021) will feature a dynamic program encompassing an exhibition, a performance program, an online publishing platform and publications, and a series of public forums bringing together artists, theoretical scientists, and systems thinkers. The Biennale argues for the primacy of plurality, positing that points of origin and influence ought to be accessed not only through the dominant technological systems and machinic vocabularies traceable to the West but also relate to heterodox ancestries.
In challenging the structural divisions imposed upon corporeal, technological, and spiritual intelligence, Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning will delve into a broad set of cosmologies, activating planetary life-systems, queer technologies, and modes of communal survival. By investigating how such diverse practices transact with multitudinous forms of life, the 13th Gwangju Biennale will examine how they contend with the future horizon of cognitive capitalism and planetary imperialisms, as well as the present dimension of neural networks and other techno-spiritual emergences that populate our computational biosphere. We feel convinced—living as we are through a traumatic interregnum—that the present co-evolution with electronic intelligence and algorithmic regimes needs to be addressed from a planetary perspective. How then can we interpret the incomputable nature of this transition?
In Gwangju, a city that has long been acutely familiar with resistance building and communal trauma, it is the Biennale’s intent to bring mind-expanding practices together with historically conscious propositions. The 40th anniversary of the May 18 Democratic Uprising and people’s movement in Gwangju provides an impetus to metabolize journeys through the threshold between life and death—the middle world of the undead—to extend analyses of current strategies of solidarity building and global alliances, and to strive for a deeper understanding of the intrinsic relationship between healing, dissent, and renewal.
As curators, Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala have been engaged in conceiving daring exhibition and biennale formats within diverse geographies, in each instance composing collaborative contexts and interdisciplinary frameworks that also provide historical anchoring and engagement with local conditions. In Gwangju, they intend to remain committed to the metabolic process of commissioning artworks, expanded publishing and live performances, while continuing their active research in models of understanding shaped by the specificity of socio-political realities, complex historiography, cultural knowledge systems, and ancestral traditions, beyond the horizons of western reason. They chose three words for the magazine.
Defne Ayas has served as a director and curator to several cultural institutions and research initiatives across the world, including the Netherlands, China, the United States, and Russia. Currently, she is the Artistic Director of “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning”, the 13th Gwangju Biennale 2021 (with Natasha Ginwala) as well as Curator at Large for V-A-C Foundation in Moscow/Venice. Ayas was the director of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2012–2017). During her tenure there, Ayas undertook several biennale projects including “Respiro” at the Pavilion of Turkey in the 56th Venice Biennale (curator, 2015); “How to gather? Acting in a Center in a City in the Heart of the Island of Eurasia”, the 6th Moscow Biennale (co-curator, 2015); and “Mindaugas”, the 11th Baltic Triennial (co-curator, 2012), co-curator of the Istanbul and Bandung city pavilions as part of the Intercity Project of the 9th Shanghai Biennale, and curator of New York-based Performa since 2005. Ayas also served as a curatorial advisor to the 8th Shanghai Biennale in China, and as a publication advisor to the 8th Gwangju Biennale in 2010. Ayas co-founded several independent initiatives, including “Arthub Asia“—an Asia-wide active research and production initiative 2007, producing exhibitions and live productions including operas and performances, within the context of China and rest of Asia as well as “Blind Dates Project“—an artistic platform that is dedicated to tackling what remains of the peoples, places and cultures of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923).
Natasha Ginwala is a curator and writer. She is Associate Curator at Gropius Bau, Berlin and artistic director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo. Ginwala has curated Contour Biennale 8, “Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium” and was part of the curatorial team of documenta14, 2017. Other recent projects include “Arrival, Incision. Indian Modernism as Peripatetic Itinerary” in the framework of “Hello World. Revising a Collection” at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2018; “Riots: Slow Cancellation of the Future” at ifa Gallery Berlin and Stuttgart, 2018; “My East is Your West” at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015; and “Corruption: Everybody Knows…” with e-flux, New York, 2015. Ginwala was a member of the artistic team for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, 2014, and co-curated “The Museum of Rhythm” at Taipei Biennial 2012 and at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2016–2017. From 2013–2015, in collaboration with Vivian Ziherl, she led the multi-part curatorial project “Landings” presented at various partner organizations. Ginwala writes on contemporary art and visual culture in various periodicals and has contributed to numerous publications. She is a recipient of the 2018 visual arts research grant from the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.
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