Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti, Busan Bien­nale 2020: Words at an Exhibition

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 of​Jung-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
five-channel HD video installation, colour, 10 channel mono sound, variable dimensions, 9 minutes 8 seconds
Installation view, 2020 Busan Biennale

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


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