April 2nd, 2021

Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.

The opening of the Gwangju Biennale, in South Korea, is always a highly anticipated event—and perhaps even more so this time around, after a year without in-person art festivals of any kind. Following two pandemic-related postponements, this 13th edition of the Biennale has just launched at four venues across the city. And for the many who are still not able or willing to brave flights, tests, and quarantines, the Biennale’s curators—Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala—have come up with various ways to access the show online.

The theme of this edition, which is titled “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning,” is an exploration of collective intelligence as it appears in both ancient communal cultures and futuristic algorithms—“the spectrum of the extended mind,” as the curators put it in their statement. Objects from the Shamanism museum in Seoul are included alongside sculptures by artists who belong to indigenous cultures and videos that make use of Artificial Intelligence. Different kinds of matriarchy figure prominently, whether in artifacts exemplifying the tradition of “grandmother-worship” or in the interactive works of a feminist video gaming collective.

Drawing it all together is a video of an energetic ceremonial procession organized by the curators to kick off the Biennale and “awaken” the works in the galleries. It shows costumed and face-masked performers dancing, drumming, chanting, and weaving their way through the main part of the exhibition in Gwangju’s Biennale Hall, and is an excellent point of entry for art lovers looking to explore the show remotely.

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