Divided We Stand
The theme of this biennial is that of divided territories as it is reflected in artists’ work from around the world. Torn apart are not only territories— nations, or formerly ethnically connected regions, usually by war, colonization and/or hostile estrangement—but also, importantly, psyches.
What kind of sentiments and conditionings does the splitting of territories induce in people’s minds in general, and artistic minds specifically? Vice versa, what kinds of mindsets induce the splitting in the first place?
Politically and historically speaking, the list of divided territories or split former nation states, is long. Just talking about the globe after World War II, one can mention, amongst many more, India and Pakistan, Sudan, Germany, former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, China and Taiwan, Vietnam, Israel and Palestine, and not least, Korea.
Addressing the psycho-mapping of divided territories means to ask how the political, economic, and military powers have created ways to inhabit and rule the world, and vice versa, how these ways either reinforce or erode these divisions. It also means to ask what struggles result from this relationship between psyche and territory, individual and community or people. The exhibition therefore takes as its logical starting point Korea’s own divided context.
The exhibition’s aim is not to serve as a mere illustration or commentary to the main topic of divided territories. Instead, participating artists approach the overall theme from different angles. Some works directly address the subject matter whereas others function in a more mental, historic or conceptual way through sub-themes such as territories divided by state-control; mass culture and psychological conditioning; anxiety about national identities; monuments/statues as traces of ideology and propaganda; racism, sexism and classism in the context of nationalism and colonialism; climate change and ecological disasters; or paranoia and post-traumatic disorders as the outcome of war and displacement.
The Busan Biennale takes place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan and the former Bank of Korea. The two venues reflect the biennale’s theme: at the newly opened museum, the main focus is the Cold War era and its uncanny return in the present, while at the Bank of Korea building; alternate futurist scenarios unfold, looking at our current state of being through the lens of science fiction.