Imagined Borders-Gwangju Biennale
My first day in Gwangju and we went straight to the Biennale -Imagined Borders-with a focus on democracy, peace and human rights.
Our Memory & History exhibition sponsored by the Gwangju Biennale and funded by Gwangju Metropolitan Council was part of the 7th International Women Artist's Festival, organised by Noh Jung-suk, festival director and Jeong Soon-ea, President of the International Women's Art Exchange Association, held in the Asia Creative Studio in Asia Cultural Centre. The festival was set up to promote women's imagination and creativity through the convergence of women's art and social messages as well as cultural exchange.
My work entitled 'The Fire within' was a message to women to remember their internal fire whatever challenges they face, and was inspired by painting the caves (and the internal magma of the earth), in Cappadoccia earlier this year on an international art camp. Our exhibition was opened by a Korean cultural Pansori practitioner who sang, danced and played drums, as shown below.
I was very impressed to visit the biennale which gave the opportunity to meet other artists such as Japanese male artist Yoshitomo Nara who through his work exposed the sexual exploitation of women by the Japanese military. His work was to be completed by a charred paper testimony of each woman depicted in his paintings. The work was not only aesthetically well presented but also illustrated how art can be utilised to convey social messages and make visual statements that need to be heard. 'Faultlines' by Yeon Shim Chung & Yeewan Koon explored our imagined belonging, shared values and how this could be fissured by unsettled times and if fantasy, fiction and abstractions are better ways of facing current social and political realities.
I was invited to give a lecture at Chonnam National University which I started with a brief meditation and ended thus with a message to encourage connection with one another and the natural world through art using technology as an aid, but not allowing it to dominate our lives and thus inhibit interaction.
I also spoke about various art projects that I had co-ordinated in Britain and showed a video of the Live Art work 'A Seat at the Table-Afternoon Tea the Sheffield Way'.
I invited questions from the audience. Three young female students stood up to ask questions no doubt inspired by the female Dean of the art college Professor Jung Kum-hee who I was delighted to meet in her office along with the Vice Dean.
It was very good to see young female students with the confidence to stand up and ask questions and especially as artists from 15 countries from the Memory & History exhibition were also present. In order to gain greater connection with the audience I left the stage and lectern for the question time to enable greater discussion.
The whole visit was well organised and included a conference in which woman artists could discuss 'Life and art of Asian and European Women artists'. Along with discussing serious matters of our times and how art can advance and expose to create new understandings the organisers also gave us time for cultural visits such as to the Korean Beauty Museum to see various artefacts and appliances used through the ages in pursuit of what was seen throughout Korean history as beautiful, giving opportunity to experience wearing such adornment that was no doubt the privy of the wealthy. Whilst wearing such clothing and headdress for a short while added some fun, it also made me consider the sometimes invisible restrictions that still confine women today which is all the more reason for women artists to continue to make art and exchange and find that inner voice of power.
I express my thanks and congratulations to Noh Jung-suk and Jeong Soon-ea for organising an excellent and thought provoking international women's art festival within the Gwangju Biennale. There were many exchanges made between countries that will continue to bear fruit as the year's go on and I look forward to hearing of the future success of the young women artist students who asked me questions during the Q & A of my lecture.