Light and Matter: 2022 South Korea Sculpture Biennale

Art Spiel Photo Story

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Michael Whittle Butterfly on the Sun, Seongsan Art Hall, Changwon Ink on UV-resistant plastic, 61’ x 48’

The Changwon Biennale is the largest recurring sculpture show in South Korea. During the fall of 2022 it showcased 69 artists under the title, Channel: Particle Wave Duality. Curated by Director Cho Kwan Yong, Chief Curator Lee Tahe Hoon and Curator Hyojin Nam, the show considered the broad sense of how light and matter interact at the intersection of art and science. Alongside three-dimensional works, it included sound art, video screenings and installations. The small group of international artists who were invited this fall to South Korea to create their work onsite in the biennale exhibition halls worked for three weeks with support from the Korean government and the care of the local team.

Among the invited international artists was Canadian artist Chris Myhr with his project of recording underwater sounds which he captured along a stretch of the Nakdong River, from its mouth at the East Sea to the “bulge” section north of Gimhae City. The installation made audible the complex assemblage of human and nonhuman activities that intersect within these waters. It then transitioned to a more abstracted interpretation of the “voice” of the Nakdong, centered around three dominant sound frequencies identified across the field recordings. The sounds of the river and compositions were audible from a set of speakers that mapped the river path on the gallery ceiling.

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Chris Myhr recording on the Nakdong Riverbank

Across the Seongsan Art Hall, New York artist Michal Gavish installed From Synapses to Free Will, a translucent fabric installation. With her science background, Gavish distilled scientific imagery into a set of thirty large paintings on fabric based on 3D brain maps and microscopy photos. Suspended in an adjacent sequence, the continuous fabric creates a wall, which configured a spiral path through an imaginary brain map, leading the viewer to walk into and observe the neural territory from within.

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Michal Gavish, From Synapses to Free Will Installation, Mixed media on fabric and paper, 6’ X 25’ X 15’

Michael Whittle toiled in rough weather on the high glass ceiling of the exhibition hall. His work, Wings of the Butterfly, is a large-size graph based on NASA diagrams of sunspots across the sun’s surface that appear in pairs during periods of maximum solar activity, which coincided with the year of his birth.

Anssi Taulu of Finland constructed a large wooden skeleton from scratch, covering it with found cardboard. The viewer enters the innermost part of the structure through a dark corridor to find embedded the Golden Flower, a Benjamin Tree, which is lit with a bicolor LED panel. The red and blue (460 and 660 nm wavelengths) supply radiation energy combination, the secret that enables photosynthesis. The rough cardboard exterior and the precious internal light are visually and experientially separate from each other, relating to the relationship between humans and the environment, thematic depths through layering.

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Anssi Taulu The Secret of The Golden Flower, wood, recycled cardboard, carpet, Benjamin Tree, plant lamp, concrete and rainwater 10.5’ x 12’ x 21’

Chapel of very small Creations is an animation video by the Norwegian/Dutch artist, Simone Hooymans. To prepare for her projection of a cave-like universe made of green soft shaped-rock formations, she designed a dark-green projection room that invokes the viewer to delve into the mystery of life and triggers the sensibility for faith and the longing of humans to be part of a whole ecosystem.

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Simone Hooymans, Chapel of very small Creations, 2022, 5 min digital animation made with watercolor drawings

Another sound piece was by the German artist Juergen Staak, in which he included also his drawings. He explains his conceptual piece in these words: “Dispute relates to an issue in the family, between genders, among ages, and of course in politics. ‘Yes’ in Korean is ‘De.’ ‘No’ in German is ‘Nee.’ Both sound similar phonetically but are controversial.”

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Juergen Staak Dispute, sound installation detail

Japanese duo Tsubasa Kato and Yukari Hilano filmed four local musicians performing the Korean national anthem while tied together with rope. This Performance Constraint” turns each performer into an obstacle for the others. 

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Tsubasa Kato and Yukari Hilano Constraint; Performance video: 7min 34sec

Berlin artist Bernhard Draz was the first to arrive in Changwon. At the studio, he worked on a sculptural light installation which he constructed from laser-cut metal, wood and glass to construct his meticulous conceptual installation, Transitional Justice — Terminology. Through this combination of light and matter, the artist addressed the similarities and contrasts of Korea and Germany as historically divided nations through the thematically concise terms “arbitrariness”, “freedom,“ “justice” and “control” in German and Korean, which diverge in meaning between the two languages.

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Bernhard Draz Transitional Justice Terminology, 2022, 6.3’ X 7.5’, neon and steel letters, MDF

Living and working in Changwon, South Korea created special bonds between the international artists and their hosts. Somehow, this group adopted the generous mannerism of their Korean hosts. The parallel communal and personal creative processes vibrated constructively through the three-dimensional structures, projections, and sounds. Although each artist came prepared with an idea for their exhibition, they all found themselves adding to their works new connections that echoed throughout the exhibition hall and clarified the intersection of art and science.

All photos courtesy of the artists.

2022 Changwon Sculpture Biennale Channel Wave Particle Duality Seongsan Art Hall , Changwon, South Korea October 7 – November 20. 2022