13th Gwangju Biennale — Minds Rising Spirits Tuning

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Live Organ

Live Organ is an active element of the 13th Gwangju Biennale that explores the set of questions at the heart of the exhibition and includes a series of public forums alongside a program of newly commissioned live works. Through a variety of media and dialogues, Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning will share contemporary positions of particular relevance to the fortieth anniversary of the May 18 Democratic Uprising. Regarding this historic anniversary, artistic directors Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala add: “In marking the legacy of the Gwangju Uprising, we are committed to engaging with the lineage of these traumatic events and the role of communal participation in the democratization movement. We observe the uprising’s significance not only by revisiting past chronicles but also by striving to recognize similar citizen movements that have taken place since 1980 and reflecting upon current, ongoing struggles in so many parts of the world—from Turkey, Hong Kong, and Brazil to India, Tibet, Chile, and Lebanon. The Gwangju Uprising holds global significance, and therefore we see it as a prism to understand some of the urgent questions that solidarity movements ask today.”

Korakrit Arunanondchai's talk, Perpetual Spring Pavilion, MMCA Seoul, January 7, 2020. Photo: Jang Jun-ho.

Upcoming Programs

Rising to the Surface: Practicing Solidarity Futures
Rising to the Surface: Practicing Solidarity examines the tidal currents of people’s movements, the recurring spectre of oppressive regimes, and the inventive tools of current citizen protests. This forum brings together scholars, artists, activists, and civil society actors from around the world to address grassroots struggles in a discussion of shared vocabularies on strategies of public dissent, civic advocacy, healing public trauma, indigenous solidarity, and environmental activism. Online and on-site sessions will focus on algorithmic violence and digital surveillance; struggles to protect land and waters from extractive infrastructures; and the feminist legacy of democratization movements from the 1980s onward.

Opening Forum
The Opening Forum interweaves the biennale’s generative topics, examining the spectrum of the extended mind and challenging the structural divisions imposed upon corporeal, technological, and spiritual intelligence. This program invites scientists, philosophers, system thinkers, and researchers to discuss cosmotechnics, neuroscience and data technology, healing practices, and shamanism.

Choreographies of Resistance and Resilience
Multiple choreographies test the contours of resistance and resilience and begin with a procession scored in collaboration with participating artists that navigates various theoretical, scientific, physical, sonic, and spiritual vocabularies of communality. Embracing a fluid grammar through energy mobilization activities and motivations, these inclusive choreographies are primarily inspired by techniques originating across Asia.

Artist Sylbee Kim in conversation with curator Kim Younghee, Horangasssy Creative Studio, Gwangju, October 1, 2019. Photo: Choi Seong Uk.

Artist Ana María Millán in conversation with artist and researcher Jinjoo Kim, Perpetual Spring Pavilion, MMCA Seoul, January 7, 2020. Photo: Jang Jun-ho.

Past Programs

Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning intends to consider critically questions of scale, sustainability, and value intimacy to ensure that the conversations and shared learning generated by the collective labor of biennale production can be accessed by wider audiences. Several of the artists and team members conducting site visits and research in Gwangju and nearby Jeju experienced recent political upheaval and people’s movements in their own regions. The site visits in Gwangju included meetings at the 5.18 Archive, May Mothers House, and Gwangju Trauma Centre, among others. While artistic works will not directly connect with these sites, it is important to us that the research process includes the experience of crucial local sites of mourning, dissent, care, and recovery.

Held in conjunction with the participating artists’ site visits to Gwangju, the public programs opened up the dialogues that usually remain internal to the biennale’s production. Invited artists were paired with local interlocutors for various gatherings.

During the first public program October 1–2, 2019, audiences joined a ritual drawn from Dionysian and Indian rites led by Angelo Plessas; traveled through sonic registers and shamanic figurations of the lower world with Yin-Ju Chen; interpreted engineered sculptures as spirit beings from Aztec cosmology and Nahua worldview with Fernando Palma Rodríguez; and encountered choreographed machine learning with Judy Radul. Sangdon Kim launched an inquiry into the politics of the dead and disappeared as part of the unresolved historical legacy of Gwangju. Sylbee Kim, in conversation with curator Kim Younghee, explored how the metaphysical aspects of religion connect to contemporary prospects of immortality. John Gerrard linked an intensive engagement with neural networks and deep learning to a protagonist drawn from Celtic paganism. Gala Porras-Kim queried taxonomies of living and dead objects while contesting linguistic protocols of conservation.

The second public program on January 7, 2020, also featured artists’ presentations, performances, and conversations with local interlocutors. Hosted at Perpetual Spring Pavilion at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, the program assembled discussions with Ana María Millán and Jinjoo Kim on the relations between digital cultures, feminism and performativity; Femke Herregraven on data models of cat bonds and how they offer testimony of ecological catastrophes; and Ad Minoliti on the Feminist School of Painting and how to use pictorial genre to discuss painting, gender, and race. Korakrit Arunanondchai shared his long-term obsession on ghosts, specifically their historical relationship to monks and their use in cinema; Sahej Rahal investigated world-building practices through fiction; Cian Dayrit  and Timoteus A. Kusno addressed what is deemed “lost” and the coloniality of power; Moon Kyungwon and biennale curatorial team member Joowon Park considered platforms of collective intelligence and urban history through sentient forms. Last but not least, on January 11, Sissel Tolaas organized a smell lab workshop with children in Gwangju.