Review: Gwangju Biennale: Roundtable


The word on the street was that this year’s installment of the Gwangju Biennale wasn’t very good. Viewing the co-directed Roundtable with already low expectations, the most obvious flaw of this biennale is that it is not well organized, which despite stating that this its premise is the organization of an open and non-hierarchical endeavor. For even the most egalitarian of exhibits can have a sense of unity or even design. So it is all well and good to intend this and also stand in opposition to the last Gwangju Biennale in order to mess with order. But the last biennale was in comparison a far more comprehensive and coherent statement of its guiding thesis. Roundtable, on the other hand, is plagued by confusing, vague and has an overwhelming amount of signage that often has typos and omits key information like video duration. One area that did excel was the off-site exhibit at Mugaksa, a Buddhist temple. The works shown there were both engaging and enjoyable. Conversely, the works shown in the Daein Market felt haphazard, in a bad way, but not because it was in a market, but because the market is dirty and gross, not inviting in any way. The lack of attention to this area by the organizers or the city was an obvious misstep of the organizers. More importantly what that site added to these works I do not know. For if the site was supposed to inform the works I could see no connection as to why good works by like Kim Beom and Chosil Kil had to be stuffed there and suffer from crap accommodations. In the main halls the show went on too long, meaning the first gallery had a lot of work of interest, even if some felt derivative or familiar, but as one moved through the spaces it became a chore to keep up with the amount of listening and video and reading that had to been done to take in the whole thing. By the last floor in the second building fatigue had set in caused by unevenly juxtaposed works demanding unwarranted attention.