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Seoul Mediacity Biennale to become public-oriented festival

SeMA unveils 61 participating artists, experts and groups for 2018 Seoul Mediacity Biennale

Seoul Museum of Art aims to offer platforms where the public, artists and experts can actively engage on the same footing in the 2018 Seoul Mediacity Biennale, which is slated to kick off on Sept. 6 and run through Nov. 18.

“Instead of the museum talking to the public about the exhibition topic, the relation has to be bilateral. In preparing the biennale, we had to think about the ways in which we do not silence or overwhelm the public,” emphasized Hong Gi-bin, a political economist and one of six co-directors of the biennale, during a press conference held Wednesday at SeMA‘s main branch in central Seoul. 

“Dancing Waist” by Disabled Women‘s Theatre Group (SeMA)
“Dancing Waist” by Disabled Women‘s Theatre Group (SeMA)

Under the title of “Eu Zen” -- meaning “live well” in Greek -- SeMA’s 2018 biennale will invite the public with exhibitions and discussion platforms where people can explore new conditions required to “live well” in a rapidly changing world.

“For some exhibitions, the co-directors have decided to conduct in-depth surveys asking what the public is greatly interested in. If the topics are the ones that many people are already interested in, they will more actively join the biennale, we thought,” Hong added.

Parting ways from a conventional sense of museum exhibitions, SeMA this year challenges itself to extend the role of a public museum. 

“Combining Placing +” by choreographer Ro Kyung-ae (SeMA)
“Combining Placing +” by choreographer Ro Kyung-ae (SeMA)

“We did not want to stop at merely presenting contemporary artworks at the museum spaces, like many other museums and galleries do. Instead of just displaying works by artists, we decided to invent platforms that can house people with different backgrounds and have them speak about different conditions of reality,” said co-director Kim Jang-un.

For the biennale, SeMA will use the exhibition spaces of the Seosomun branch, Nam-Seoul branch and SeMA Bunker -- an underground shelter built in Yeouido in the 1970s that has recently become gallery space for SeMA.

The museum also make uses of other outside multimedia platforms, such as the Seoullo Media Canvas.

For the upcoming biennale -- co-directed by six experts across various areas -- around 61 artists and experts groups have confirmed participation, SeMA officials said. The museum is in discussions with another 10 individuals and teams to join the biennale, it added.

“When dealing with social issues, it is difficult for a single director to untangle numerous aspects associated with them. So we decided last year to have the biennale be co-directed,” said Choi Hyo-joon, who is the SeMA general director as well as one of six co-directors.

The six co-directors are dance critic Kim Nam-soo, independent curator Kim, director of The Book Society Lim Kyung-yong, climate and energy team leader of Greenpeace Jang Da-ul, general director of SeMA Choi and Global Political Economy Institute Director Hong.

“Treasure Island” by Treasure Island Collective (SeMA)
“Treasure Island” by Treasure Island Collective (SeMA)

Confirmed exhibitions and performances include “Treasure Island” by Treasure Island Collective, performance piece “Combining Placing +” by choreographer Ro Kyung-ae and the Disabled Women’s Theatre Group’s “Dancing Waist” performance. Media artist Yangachi has also been listed among the 61 participating artists.

By Shim Woo-hyun (