Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Incheon Women Artists' Biennale

"So Close Yet So Far Away", the thema for IWA Biennale's second edition*, could sum up your experience as a visitor of an event stretched all over Incheon's Jung-gu : you can enjoy at the same time the encounter with 297 very different women artists from 41 very different countries, and the visit of a city center under complete cultural revival.

Special mention to the heart of IWAB : Incheon Art Platform, a new exhibition complex giving a second life to old warehouses, each building serving potentially as a residence for a group of artists. IAP brilliantly fills a cultural gap, both in space and time, at the feet of the hill leading to Freedom Park through old foreign concessions.

All three exhibitions have one foot in the Incheon Art Platform :
- the rest of "main exhibition" is hosted by Incheon Korean-Chinese Cultural Center, a much kitscher building at the end of this new art village's main street.
- "Participation" ("Alone Together" - 93 Korean artists) put its other foot in the Incheon Educational and Cultural Center for Students...
- ... where "Tunig" ("The 21st Century, The Feminine Century, and the Century of Diversity and Hope" - 86 international artists, both male and female) only sets one toe, the rest being scattered across various buildings and hotels.

I particularly liked Faith Ringgold's "Tar Beach 2" (1990), Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's videos of villagers reacting to XIXth century master paintings, and the touching tribute of Imhathai Suwatthanasilp to her father. The last two come from Thailand, as does Sutthirat Supaparinya, co-curator (along with Thalia Vrachopoulos) of the exhibition. The Biennale Organising Committee is chaired by Kwon Kyung-ae.

I saw visitors from all generations, but visited on a rather quiet Tuesday, and a hot summer afternoon. So I cannot tell if the Biennale is a popular success. But considering their limited budget (compared to Gwangju Biennale, for instance), organizers did a fantastic job. Furthermore, beyond the artists and their works, and beyond the Incheon Art Platform, Incheon Women Artists' Biennale is a very interesting way of rediscovering Incheon, its streets and architecture, its past and future, its relation to modernity and the world.

I'll definitely be back for the next edition.

* the second edition as the World's first international women artists' biennale after 2007 (thema: "Knocking On The Door"), but the fourth including 2004 ("Incheon Women Artists" meaning artists from Incheon area) and 2006 (Pre-International Women Artists' Biennale).

2009 Incheon Women Artists' Biennale
August 1 to 31, 2009 (Preview July 30-31)
Tel : +82.32.772.7727

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