Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala Named Artistic Directors of 13th Gwangju Biennale
By Pamela Wong
On March 14, the Gwangju Biennale Foundation announced the appointment of Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala as the artistic directors of the 13th Gwangju Biennale, scheduled to open in September of 2020.
The duo’s proposed program includes an exhibition, performances, a publishing platform and a series of public forums that will explore modes of knowledge beyond the scope of Western reason, such as indigenous wisdom, shamanistic cosmologies and non-human cognition. The biennial will also be anchored in the specific conditions of its locale. Ayas and Ginwala stated: “We look forward to working in Gwangju, seeped as it is in the history of resistance. It provides an impetus to extend further analysis of the notion of swarm intelligence, today’s strategies of revolutionary activity, and the pushback unleashed through the surveillance state and machinic warfare—generating an effective link with the democratization movement revisited from a contemporary perspective.”
Ayas and Ginwala were selected following a series of consultations held by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation with its Board of Directors and International Advisory Committee, which includes Jessica Morgan, director of New York’s Dia Art Foundation and artistic director of the 10th Gwangju Biennale; Stephanie Rosenthal, director of Berlin’s Gropius Bau; Mami Kataoka, deputy director of Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Yongwoo Lee, current president of Shanghai Project and president of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation from 2010 to 2014; and Yeon Shim Chung, professor at Seoul’s Hongik University, and a curator of the 12th Gwangju Biennale. Describing Ayas and Ginwala’s proposal, Morgan stated, “I found compelling the future thinking of the project, not simply a critique of our contemporary surroundings or moment in time but a position that views ‘potential’ as key to our possible futures.”
An Istanbul native, Ayas has curated and directed projects at global cultural institutions. She is currently curator-at-large at the V-A-C Foundation in Moscow. From 2012 to 2017, she was the director of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. She has also organized presentations at major festivals, such as the 56th Venice Biennale’s Turkey Pavilion (2015), the 6th Moscow Biennale (2015) and the 11th Baltic Triennial (2012).
India-born Ginwala is currently an associate curator at Gropius Bau, Berlin, and the artistic director of the interdisciplinary art festival Colomboscope in Colombo. Ginwala has contributed her curatorial expertise to events such as documenta 14 (2017), the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2014), The Gujral Foundation’s exhibition “My East is Your West” at the 56th Venice Biennale, and the Taipei Biennial (2012).
Pamela Wong is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.
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