Burning Down the House – Gwangju Biennale 2014

Venue: Gwangju, Republic of Korea
Dates: 5 September – 9 November 2014
Artistic Director: Jessica Morgan
Associate Curators: Fatos Ustek, Emiliano Valdes
Associate Curator for Performance: Enna Bae
Assistant Curator: Teresa Kittler

The making of the first Gwangju Biennale held in 1995 involved a number of different factors. First, it gained the support of the government which promoted it as part of their campaign of 1995 as the “Year of Art,” and in accordance to the much heralded 1993 official launch of the Segyehwa Policy (a globalization policy). The timing of the event also marked the fiftieth anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese ruling. It was also created as a memorial to the Gwangju’s May 18th Democratic Uprising in 1980, which inspired a nation-wide movement fighting for democracy and its eventual success which now forms the backbone of South Korea today. These sentiments are the basis of the Gwangju Biennale’s founding vision or in the words of the Biennale’s prospectus: “The Gwangju Biennale, founded upon Gwangju’s democratic citizenhood and artistic tradition, respects the healthy spirit of the nation. [It aims to create] balance between East and West, active germination of Asia’s culture in the 21st century, and cultural community of the Pacific era…” (Gwangju Biennale 2014).

The 10th edition of the Gwangju Biennale in 2014, Burning Down the House, had curator Jessica Morgan as Artistic Director, who ensured her curatorial framing remained invested in the city’s political history. The title for the Biennale was taken from the American band Talking Head’s 80’s song ‘Burning Down the House’. The song explores ideas related to burning and transformation, destruction and renewal; a core thematic thread for the biennale, with this cycle being a pattern witnessed throughout history. 105 artists from 39 countries engaged with this idea of creative destruction, resistance and reimagining through a wide variety of mediums.

Biennale hall. Burning Down The House, Gwangju Biennale 2014

Anthea Hamliton. Nicholas Byrne. Love. 2012. Mixed media.

Seulfo Lee. U. 2014. Silk and cotton. CLAMOUR. 2011-4. Papier-mache.

Young In Hong. Silent Drum. 2014. Embroidered image on cotton fabric.


Images courtesy of the Gwangju Biennale