Channeling Ai Weiwei in Korea: Brendan McGetrick on Curating the Artist’s Democratic Vision at the Gwangju Design Biennale

Courtesy of Gwangju Design Biennale. "Athletic Body Design" - a mural by photographers Howard Schartz and Beverly Ornstein, is included in Gawngju's "Unnamed" category.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation appointed Seung H-Sang, a Korean architect, and Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and architectural designer, as co-directors of the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale. Eight curators and two designers have also been appointed for six major sections of the thematic exhibition. The 4th Gwangju Design Biennale is held at the Biennale Exhibition Hall and throughout the metropolitan city of Gwangju from September 2nd to October 23rd 2011.

Seung H-Sang completed Paju Book City project in Korea, and has gained international recognitions through projects like Guggenheim Pavilion in Abu Dhabi, Chao-Wei SOHO project in Beijing as well as Korea DMZ Peace-Life Valley, the graveyard of late former President Roh Moo-hyun and Commune by the Great Wall. He served as a commissioner of Korean Pavilion for Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008. He operates the architectural firm, Iroje, which he established in 1989.

Ai Weiwei is influential artist, curator, social commentator and activist. His ground-breaking work Sunflower Seeds was recently presented at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. The work consisted of 100 million porcelain seeds, each individually hand painted by 1,600 Chinese artisans. Ai’s work has been exhibited in the Venice Biennale, Documenta, the Guangzhou Triennial, the Biennale of Sydney among others. He served as creative consultant with the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & De Meuron for their “bird’s nest” Beijing Olympic Stadium project.

The theme of 4th Gwangju Design Biennale is Design is Design is not Design, and is divided into 6 different sections. The theme reinterpret the boundaries between design and non-design, and looks back and explain a variety of design concepts that determine the value of civilized society or are recognized as absolute accessories.

The exhibition theme, inspired by the first words in Tao Te Ching, 道德經 of Lao Tzu, 老子- ‘The way 道 that is the way is not always the way. The name 名 that is the name is not always the name.’, throws a complex question to the viewers with the interpretation of ‘design is design is not always design and non-design is non-design is not always non-design’.

Via ARTINFO, Janelle Zara sat down with writer, editor and curator Brendan McGetrick to discuss putting together the event without Ai Weiwei, the definition of design, and why this festival could only happen in the East.

“The beauty of being in Asia is that a concept like design is much less claustrophobic than in the West, where everyone has an idea of what design is.” Brendan McGetrick

GWANGJU, South Korea— “Svetlana Khorkina, Gymnast, 5’5″, 105 pounds.” This is a label written underneath a life-sized photo of the Russian Olympic gold-medalist, presented in a line of dozens of other athletes along the wall of a gallery at theGwangju Biennale exhibition hall in the city South Korea. Their bodies, all clad in generic black underwear, are short, tall, slender, and bulky, tailored specifically to their respective sports, with their daily exercise and diet regimens listed underneath. Read more…


About ranman

Design educator with a Masters of Design degree. 32 years of design experience. View all posts by ranman

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