A Curatorial Perspective on Roundtable: The 9th Gwangju Biennale

Nancy Adajania

MUMBAI, October 19, 2012: Cultural theorist, art critic and curator Nancy Adajania was one of the art directors of the Gwangju Biennale, Asia’s first contemporary art biennial exhibitions. As part of the AsiaLens series of the Asia Society India Centre, she spoke about her curatorial premises for the exhibition, works in the presentation, the cultural and political relevance of art, and the creative dynamics of this Biennale.

The overall theme of the 9thGwangju Biennale, Roundtable, was "meant to express our specific political and cultural agendas which sometimes overlap, intersect, collide and collude with each other,” in Adajania's words. Her presentation, titled "Logging In and Out of Collectivity" pursued a thematic approach inspired by cultural theorist Sarat Maharaj’s term ‘entanglement’, which she described as “the only way in which we can actually perform our transcultural experience." Adajania asserted, “If you always see things through the prism of difference, then you will always have a roadblock. If you see things through the prism of entanglements, then you will look for affinities.”

The Gwangju Biennale was founded in 1995, in commemoration of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising (or Gwangju Democratization Movement), an act of political resistance, where people from all sections of society came together to fight against dictatorship, eventually leading to the democratization of South Korea. Adajania's contribution to the Biennale pays homage to this uprising, while avoiding glorifying or fetishizing it, by highlighting contemporary culture involving politics. Events such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements, the Hope Bus Campaign in South Korea, and the Yugoslav wars serve as contexts for the works of the artists whom Adajania presented.

Adajania asserted, however, that she is not interested in political art as “pictures of intention... [but prefers conditions] where an artist has evolved with the situation and made an intervention. We can best perform our transcultural [roles] not by being connoisseurs of difference but rather by becoming agents of transformation.” Selecting and deciphering interactions between culture and politics, she said, we have to share in the predicament of the other.

Reported by Deepika Padmanabhan, Intern, Asia Society India Centre

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