Busan Biennale 2020 to go ahead despite coronavirus
Despite the streak of cancellations of major art events around the world due to Covid-19, the Busan Biennale 2020 has stepped up and decided to push forward with this year’s exhibition.
"These are uncertain times, but we concluded that we still need to experiment,” said Kim Seong-youn, executive director of the Busan Biennale. “The art director has visited multiple times since he was appointed last year, and we have been communicating closely with each other online [since the Covid-19 breakout]. We have taken a literary approach this year, and the theme is building multiple layers of narratives to the city of Busan through art, music and the people.”
Taking place from Sept. 5 to Nov. 8, this year’s biennale will take place for 65 days at three venues across the southern city of Busan –— the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, the old town and Yeongdo Harbor — featuring 90 artists from 34 countries. The event is unique in that it is perhaps the only large-scale art event to take place this year, but what makes it truly special is that instead of compiling a catalog after all the artwork is finished and installed, art director Jacob Fabricius took a different approach.
The exhibition is titled “Words at an Exhibition — an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems.” Ten chapters of stories and five poems on various ideas about Busan have been written just for the Busan Biennale by 11 authors, and from there, Fabricius chose 68 artists and 11 musicians that would complement each work. This particular process was inspired by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), who created 15 pieces of music based on 10 paintings created by his late friend Viktor Hartmann (1834-1873), and dubbed them “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
“Mussorgsky, as a composer, took the 10 paintings by Hartmann and translated them into sound,” Fabricius told local press through a video chat. “A year ago, I started this process and I was designated as the artistic director for the biennale. I had an opportunity to meet with Korean writers and I chose authors both Korean and non-Korean from different generations. I wanted to have a mixture of young and established writers and give them equal opportunities. The stories are a mixture of political, social, detective, emotional love stories and poetic stories.”
This exhibition is about the city of Busan recreated through literature, art and sound. It focuses on the people of Busan, the memories they have and the memories that the city keeps. Visitors to the exhibition are recommended to read the story book beforehand, but will still be able to enjoy themselves without prior knowledge, according to Fabricius.
“Covid-19 has definitely been a big challenge,” he said. “It has not been easy at all, not being able to travel, transport and research freely. I am grateful for the artists, authors and musicians who have found new ways of dealing with this.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]