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Words at an Exhibition – an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems
Busan Biennale 2020 examines the city and tries to expand the various spectrums of a metropolitan through artistic expressions. At Busan Biennale 2020, ten fiction writers and one poet were invited to write on the characteristics of the city of Busan as a conceptual basis for selecting the artists, each responding through new commissions and existing works within the context of the exhibition. The authors — which represent different generations, genres, and writing styles — have each created and written fictional layers around and about the city, some with direct reference to Busan, others through indirect and ephemeral urban tales involving the locale. Mixing past, present, and future, the artists and writers involved in Words at an Exhibition — an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems use Busan as a backdrop in ways that create a narrative that simultaneously combines reality, history, and imagination through experiences of contemporary fiction, a focus on soundscapes and film works, as well as paintings, photographs, sculptures, and site-specific installations.
The title of the exhibition is derived from the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s (1839 – 1881) Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). This suite of ten piano compositions is a sonic depiction of ten works by the artist Viktor Hartmann, a friend of Mussorgsky, who passed away in 1873. At its core, Pictures at an Exhibition is an homage and a remembrance for Viktor Hartmann. Borrowing this approach of translation — from one artistic expression into another medium — Busan Biennale 2020 will transform the exhibition into an act of homage that extends across writing, sonic artworks, and contemporary commissions.
Busan Biennale 2020 will be held across three venues that span the old town, Yeongdo Harbor, and Eulsukdo in an attempt to summon the diversity of the city and its history. The selected exhibition spaces encompass exact locations mentioned in the fictional texts and poems. To come as close to some of the places mentioned in the short stories — which include sites such as 40 stairs, the American Cultural Center (currently Busan Modern History Museum), Gukje Market, and Jagalchi Market, among others — spaces located in the central area ofJung-gu have been selected as exhibition sites. The Yeongdo bridge, shipyards, Kangkangee Villages, and Bongrae Cathedral are likewise mentioned in the stories — to represent these, a warehouse space in the harbor has also been selected as an exhibition venue. The final site, which will act as the main venue for this edition of the Busan Biennale 2020, is the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan (MOCA), located on Eulsukdo, and represents the western part of Busan.
Each of the screens in Mesiti’s video installation, Over the Air and Underground, shows rotating images of flowers with a fine layer of mycelial filaments or fungal threads growing on them. The video is shot using only ultraviolet light. The work is inspired by the communication methods of organic networks; trees that communicate via underground fungal webs and the electrically charged exchange that happens between flowers and bees (bees see in the ultraviolet spectrum which guides them to pollen that glows iridescent). The soundtrack is comprised of 10 individual voices each humming in harmony with a 220 Hertz tone, the frequency which has been recorded underground as the sound tree roots emit as communication.
Over the Air and Underground, 2020
Producer: Anne Becker/PLATÔ
Botanical creative direction: Simon de Dreuille & Elena Seegers
Cinematographer: Pierre Jouvion
Camera assistant: Martin Grillet
Gaffer: Brice Tupin
Sound recordist/mix: François Gueurce, Marc Parazon
Picture and sound editor: Angelica Mesiti
Colourist: Muriel Archambaud
Voices: Clara Eon, Christine Gautier, Valentin Ranger, Felipe Vasquez, Lily Ehrlich, Anne Becker, François Guerce, Mathew McWilliams, Angelica Mesiti, Marc Parazon
Camera and Lights: RVZ
Recording studio: La cave à son
Mixing studio: Music Unit
Commissioned by the Busan Biennale