Words at an Exhibition 《열장의 이야기와 다섯 편의 시》 an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems is the title of the Busan Biennale 2020, where Jacob Fabricius (Artistic Director, Kunsthal Aarhus) was artistic director in 2019–20. The title is derived from the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s (1839–81) piano composition, Pictures at an Exhibition (1874), a sonic interpretation of ten artworks made by his friend Viktor Hartmann (1834–73). Mussorgsky transformed Hartmann’s two-dimensional works into another medium: sound. By borrowing this approach of interpreting and translating, the Busan Biennale 2020 sought to transform the city into short stories, poems, artworks and sound. Through these artforms, the Busan Biennale 2020 offered visitors a chance to explore the history and the urban landscape of Busan through fictional layers. In the Busan Biennale, each text is described as a chapter similar to how Mussorgsky divided his works into ten compositions and five recurring, varied sound intermezzos. The artists were not asked to illustrate these compositions, but rather use them as a starting point or as an inspiration for their own expressions.
The following three video works are pieces shown in Busan, offering a small glimpse into Words at an Exhibition 《열장의 이야기와 다섯 편의 시》 an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems at Kunsthal Aarhus. These works represent key issues from the Busan Biennale 2020: Gender, historical trauma and urban space. Kunsthal Aarhus has collaborated with Korea several times during the last three years. Therefore, it is natural to follow up on our interest and present a small selection from the Busan exhibition here in Kunsthal Aarhus.
13.11.2020–31.12.2020: Carey YOUNG (b. 1970, UK/US), The Vision Machine, 2020
Single-channel video, colour, sound, 13:27 min.
Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
What if visual culture was created and distributed by women? Evoking the idea of a female-centric vision, and developing her interest in the gaze, women and power, Carey YOUNG filmed female factory workers at SIGMA Corporation, one of the biggest manufacturers of lenses for photography and high-end cinema production. Dressed in white lab coats and wearing surgical masks, we see these expert technicians assembling and testing lenses throughout the mass production process.
Repeating circular forms become hypnotic, flickering between eyes, optics and machines, whose movements and sounds seem haunting, yet quasi-militaristic. Using lenses manufactured by the workers she depicts, Young’s long takes and fixed camera observe women as skilled experts, suggesting a reverse of the cinematic norms centring male subjectivity, auteurship and technical prowess. The Vision Machine offers a speculative fiction and self-reflexive counterpoint to films such as Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927), Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) or Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966), paying homage to women as creators capable of reversing the male-centric order of things. The Vision Machine developed from the significant new direction Young developed with her renowned video Palais de Justice, thus becoming the second in a new series of video works in which Young explores relations between women, the camera and systems of power. Carey Young’s research-based practice explores the relationships between the body, language, rhetoric, and systems of power. By using tools from both conceptual art and institutional critique, she develops videos, performances, photographs and installations that often originate from an exploration of the judicial and commercial spheres.
08.01.2021–07.02.2020: Kim GORDON (b. 1953, USA), July 24, 2020, 2020
Single-channel video, colour, sound, 6:53 min.
Courtesy of the artist and 303 Gallery, New York. Video footage by JiYeon Seong / Kim Gordon
Kim GORDON is an artist, writer and founding member of the New Wave band Sonic Youth. Her visual practice, which encompasses painting, sculpture, video, performance and design, can be defined as a morphology of surface. Her work is governed by the motto ‘the outside is the inside, and the inside is the outside’ (a paraphrase of Gordon’s 1995 song, Panty Lies, inspired by a quote from Andy Warhol, which states, ‘Pop Art took the inside and put it outside, took the outside and put it inside’). Kim Gordon wanted to create a new work for the Busan Biennale 2020, but due to Covid19 she could not visit Korea to select actors and locations on site.
Instead, Gordon sent instructions to the exhibition team in Busan. Gordon asked the team to use their hands, eyes and ears in relation to the research and the recording of her new film July 24, 2020. She sent short descriptions and instructions like: ‘Some back alley, if possible the back of a restaurant or an alley where there are noodle shops in the old part of the city. A young man/boy and girl wearing denim jackets looking at each other and then they kiss. Also, a cigarette stuck in the boy’s mouth without lighting it and then giving it to the girl. The boy riding on a bus. A woman with long legs eating a donut. An old woman eating noodles. A boy sleeping. Walking thru the big shopping complex shooting the shops etc that could be longer like 10 min […]’. These scenes were to be filmed with a smartphone in Busan, Korea. JiYeon Seong, from the curatorial team, asked friends to participate, found the locations and settings, and filmed it with her phone before sending the raw footage to Gordon, who then edited them with her own clips from California and made the soundscape. Following the tradition of punk and DIY ethics, Gordon’s sneering humour is accompanied by raw aesthetics, resulting in a hallucinogenic film. Deskilling keeps things strange: Gordon morphs both the physical and the social landscape around her, making it speak her poetry.
09.02.2020–14.03.2020: JANG Minseung (b. 1978, Korea), Voiceless-pitch-dark, 2014
Single-channel video, B&W, sound, 25min.
Courtesy MOCA Busan Collection
JANG Minseung works across various disciplines including sculpture, furniture design, photography, video and sound, addressing place and cultural and social issues. Jang’s particular interest in historical trauma is evident in many of his works: Jang’s synesthetic exhibition The Moments (2012) was a collaboration with musician and composer Jung Jaeil, known for his cinematic soundscapes for the movie pictures Okja and Parasite. The exhibition invited the audience to encounter the sea via media work presenting special audio-visual memories and experiences. Nature is also an important thematic and aesthetic element in Jang’s work. His film Over There (2018) documented Hallasan and the seascapes around Jeju over a period of 1,000 days, capturing momentary glimpses of appearance and disappearance, life and death.
The video installation Voiceless-pitch-dark (2014), presented at the Busan Biennale 2020, addresses the sorrow and tragedy of lives lost in the disastrous sinking of the MV Sewol Ferry. The disaster occurred on the morning of 16 April 2014, when the ferry was sailing from Incheon towards Jeju Island in Korea. Out of 476 passengers and crew, 304 died in the catastrophe. Voiceless-pitch-dark originally consists of one film, six Haiku installations printed on Korean paper, spotlights and small stones. The Haiku excerpts (a Japanese poetry style) express condensed emotions in just a few words are translated into sign language (hand movements). The Haiku poems are conveyed to the audience through abstract gestures and music. A few of the sentences in the Haiku poems are ‘Dreams wander through dry fields’, ‘Burned charcoal (pitch-dark tree), it used to be white snowy branches’, and ‘The waves are cold, and the waterbirds can't sleep’. The work is an extended message of consolation to the victims and the families. The desolation and vastness of a dark ocean representing historical tragedy, the use of sign language and the gestures of the actors together constitute a tribute, a sort of wreath laid in communal sorrow and to grieve those who do not have a share in the world.
Jacob Fabricius, Artistic Director, would like to thank:
Executive Director KIM Seongyoun. Managing Director LEE Sangsub. Exhibition Team Leader LEE Seolhui. Exhibition Team: CHO Hyesu, CHUNG Pooluna, JANG Yoojin, KIM A Young, SEONG JiYeon, and WOO Jihyun. Exhibition Support Team leader HONG Jiyoung, HAN Hyemi, LEE Jieon, and LEE NaJeong. General Affairs CHOI Minseok, KANG Woogyu, KIM Bomi, and KIM Sujin. Last but not least the visual artists, writers and musicians who all believed in this idea and made the Busan Biennale 2020 and Words at an Exhibition 《열 장의 이야기와 다섯 편의 시》 an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems possible and exceptional.