BY MASAYUKI NISHI STAFF WRITER
"OOM," by Japanese artist Kiichiro Adachi, moved slowly along a circular track. (Photos by Masayuki Nishi)"Calm," by Chinese artist "MadeIn," shivered on the floor.Large oil paintings of Tibetan children attracted many viewers. Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic digitally altered photos of victims of the 1980 Gwangju Incident to close their eyes in her display at the Busan Biennale. On this day, people performed in the room.
This is the second in a two-part series of articles on major South Korean art festivals.
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Artists from outside South Korea were prominent at the Busan Biennale this year.
In a darkened room, the walls glittered with stars as "Earth Baby," an installation by Japanese artist Tomoko Konoike, rotated. The large object, shaped like a baby's head, was covered with broken bits of mirror glass. It gleamed as it turned slowly in the dark.
At a beach, meanwhile, a huge shell-covered caterpillar inched slowly around a circular track. Called "OOM," the piece was by Kiichiro Adachi, also from Japan.
The curator for the biennale was Takashi Azumaya, the first Japanese ever appointed to take on that job.
"As I am Japanese, the number of works that struck me as amusing in Japan increased," Azumaya said.
"The first thing South Korean media and critics do is to compare (the Busan Biennale) with the Gwangju Biennale, one of the largest art events in Asia. But at Busan, I put my priority on entertaining people," he said.
"I could hardly believe they would appoint a Japanese artistic director, given the historical background (of the two countries). South Korea is taking on the challenge more boldly than Japan."
At the Gwangju Biennale and Media City Seoul (covered in Part 1 of this series), many photographic and video works alluded to historical and political incidents to urge viewers to think about heavyweight matters.
But the Busan Biennale, which closed Nov. 20, aimed to enchant visitors with large, unique works.
Chinese artist MadeIn's work, "Calm," consisted of a patch of rubble on the museum floor that wriggled and shook like something alive.
Other exhibits, matching the theme of "Living in Evolution," were similar in their allusions to life.
"I want everyone to feel that there is something more beyond an individual life," said Azumaya, who arrived in Busan in April. He also spent time looking for uncelebrated local artists.
Several exhibits proved very popular, including one that involved translucent, luminous fingers continuously tapping on a table as if playing a piano.
Another was a large, colorful oil painting that portrayed Tibetan children in precise, joyful detail.
"Japan should also try appointing a foreigner (to curate a show), just as the Busan (Biennale) appointed Mr. Azumaya," said Lee Yong-woo, chief executive officer of the Gwangju Biennale.
When Lee was invited to attend the opening symposium of the Aichi Triennale, which closed Oct. 31 in Nagoya, he emphasized the fact that "the Gwangju (Biennale) actively appoints foreigners."
This year, the Gwangju Biennale's artistic director was Massimiliano Gioni, an Italian in his 30s.
At the Busan Biennale, Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic was entrusted with the sensitive task of portraying the memories of the bloody 1980 Gwangju Incident in which many demonstrators died in a military crackdown.
"The future of the Biennale depends on whether it can expand the scope of human exchange and participation while taking deep root in the region," art critic Sung Wan-kyung said.
The South Korean biennale events incorporated keen observations from people outside the country, among them a set of eyes from Japan. Leaving the interpretations of their nation's bitter history in the hands of foreigners is an attempt to gain an even wider and more open view.