Busan Biennale 2022 brings together Korean and international artists under one roof

The 2022 edition takes the Korean city as a starting point to reflect on the stories hidden within the history of Busan since the modern era and the changing structure of the city.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Sep 08, 2022

Every time I visit an art exhibition, I wander in a haze between life, art, myself, socialites, anxieties about the future, and dreams and possibilities. From all the exhibits and talks I have attended, I have noticed that we learn more from a three-minute chat about art than we ever studied in school. The fairs challenge your belief - your mind changes, you share joyful moments, and learn from complete strangers. Art fairs are like travelling to a new city and learning a new language while knowing the itinerary. Fairs leave you with intense knowledge of a new culture, a new way of thinking, almost a moment of epiphany until the end, and then you move on with your lives.

The House, 2018, Installation view, Yusuke Kamata, How Little You Know About Me (MMCA, Seoul, 2018) | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
The House, 2018, Installation view, Yusuke Kamata, How Little You Know About Me (MMCA, Seoul, 2018) Image: Moon June Hee; Courtesy of Sutton

The Busan Biennale is a life-changing experience for contemporary art connoisseurs as the exhibition takes Busan in South Korea as a starting point to reflect on the stories that remain or lay concealed inside Busan's history since the modern period, as well as the changes in the city's structure and examines them in connection to world reality. The exhibition’s theme, ‘We, on the Rising Wave’, represents the history and transformations of Busan, as well as the people pushed out of it and flowing into it, while also symbolising worldwide connection. Haeju Kim, previously of Art Sonje Centre, is the artistic director of the Busan Biennale 2022, which debuts along with the Frieze Week Seoul. The 2022 edition features 18 Korean and 46 international artists taking place across four locations, the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan at the mouth of the Nakdong River; the former shipbuilding hub of Yeongdo Island; the Choryang Sanbok Road district, which has roots in the communities displaced by the Korean War and Japanese occupation; and the old warehouse at Busan Port's Pier 1, a 4,000 sqm space that has never previously been open to the public.

Portrait of Haeju Kim | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
Haeju Kim, Artistic director of the Busan Biennale 2022 Image: Jung Daehyun; Courtesy of Sutton

“Over the 65 days of the exhibition, we plan to provide a variety of public programs including performances, workshops, and talks in order to sustain a period of ongoing dialogue with visitors. In particular, we will be offering an outdoor theatre in the evenings at the Yeongdo site, allowing people to view the video work of our participating artists amid the Busan cityscape. We are preparing various new work and work based on research into the region, and we hope to see a lot of interest,” mentions Kim on the biennale’s programme.

Landscape with Many Holes: Skins of Yeongdo Sea, 2022, Scaffolding, wasted oil, fence fabric, Mire Lee | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
Landscape with Many Holes: Skins of Yeongdo Sea, 2022, Scaffolding, wasted oil, fence fabric, Mire Lee Image: Courtesy of Sutton

Within the theme, the artists reflect on the stories etched into Busan's history and the city's changing urban structure since the modern era, displaying artworks that connect to real-world situations. Among those exhibiting in the art biennale is Tabita Rezaire, a French artist whose practice is informed by contemporary wellness discourse and traditions such as kundalini yoga. Korean artist, Hyun Nahm, the youngest artist ever to exhibit at the Atelier Hermès space in Seoul last year, is another emerging artist to look out for. Mire Lee, a Seoul-born, Amsterdam-based visual artist, was featured in this year's Venice Biennale with Endless House: Holes and Drips (2022), an installation of alien-like organic sculptures, which are on display at this year's Busan Biennale. Lee's work is shown at one of the four exhibition venues this year, Yeongdo, which also has an outdoor theatre. Lee, the Korean artist who has lived in Amsterdam since 1988, pursues an experimental aesthetic while investigating the matter-of-factness and dynamics of industrial and technical materials such as machinery and scaffolds.

Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019, Single-channel 4K video installation, Mika Rottenberg | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019, Single-channel 4K video installation, Mika Rottenberg Image: Courtesy of Sutton

Mika Rottenberg, an Argentine artist whose participation in the Busan Biennale coincides with her first immersive exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, presents her recent film Spaghetti Blockchain (2019). Her work casts a humorous and satirical eye on society's irrationalities through a 'surrealistic society' based on reality and imagination. Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide), a Korean-Dutch artist, exposes the systems that contribute to our thinking and order, including those related to gender, ethnicity, and nationalism. She raises questions about these systems in her work by intervening to deconstruct and reconstruct them. Laure Prouvost, who had a solo exhibition at Seoul's Atelier Hermès last April, invites viewers into a fluid world where real and imagined narratives merge. This year's Busan Biennale features art installation and art performance pieces by artist Otobong Nkanga, who works in a range of media including drawing, photography, installation, video, performance art, and literature.

Touching To Sea You Through Our Extremities, 2021, Laure Prouvost | Busan Biennale| STIRworld
Touching to Sea You Through Our Extremities, 2021, Laure Prouvost Image: Filip Claessens; Courtesy of Sutton

Focusing on migration, labour and women, the ecosystem of the city, and technological change as major keywords, the art exhibition examines concrete events and situations in Busan that relate to them, as well as stories from other regions and countries. The biennale is where you may rub elbows with the world's most inquisitive tribe, who are doing one of the loveliest things our species does: exploring awareness in form, and return home with souvenirs, and an enlightened mind.

Untitled: Bluecatcher; 2022, 2022, Steel, fishing net, cement, Phyllida Barlow | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
Untitled: Bluecatcher; 2022, 2022, Steel, fishing net, cement, Phyllida Barlow Image: Courtesy of Phyllida Barlow, and Hauser & Wirth

The Busan Biennale 2022 will take place from September 3 - November 6 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Pier 1 of Busan Port, and locations in Yeongdo and Choryang.

Chew Chew Spit Spit, 2019, Mixing Rice and local tropical fruits with participants feets for Counter Rice Punch, Rice Brewing Sisters Club | Busan Biennale | STIRworld
Chew Chew Spit Spit, 2019, Mixing Rice and local tropical fruits with participants feets for Counter Rice Punch, Rice Brewing Sisters Club Image: Courtesy of Sutton

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