15th Gwangju Biennale

Pansori, a soundscape of the 21st century

2024.09.07 ~ 2024.12.01

For its 30th anniversary, the 15th Gwangju Biennale gathers 73 artists from 30 countries; Pansori, a soundscape of the 21st century is an attempt to map the complexity of the contemporary world. Conflictual borders, anti-migration walls, confinement, social distance, segregation policies... These seemingly dissimilar topics share a common point, which is space, and its political organization. The main effect of climate change is the apparition of a new topology, a new world map in which carbon dioxide and urban life, desertification and migration, deforestation and social struggles, destruction of animal ecosystems and vegetal invasions, all have become brutally interconnected. Pansori, a soundscape of the 21st century is an operatic exhibition about the space we inhabit, from our housing to the human occupation of the planet. And as landscapes are also soundscapes, the exhibition is built as a narrative connecting musical and visual forms. Dating back to the 17th century, pansori is a Korean musical genre anchored in its native territory, a symbol of the relationships between sound and space. In Korean, pansori literally means "the noise from the public place," which might also be translated as the voice of the subalterns. The 15th Gwangju Biennale intends to recreate the original spirit of pansori, presenting artists who explore contemporary space through dialogue with the living forms around them. Art, too, is a specific place, one which allows us to re-think the space shared between humans, machines, animals, spirits, and organic life — our relational space. Space is also a knot that connects all emancipation struggles, from feminism to decolonization or LGBT+ rights; the division of space is always geopolitical. A number of artists in this exhibition address these spatial issues by representing contemporary landscapes and urban conditions, saturated with human presence, or the effects of industrialization on natural ecosystems. Others open up the space itself by engaging in dialogues with machines, animals, bacteria and other life forms, or examining the molecular composition of the world. And still others are working at a cosmic scale, inventing a contemporary shamanism. From extreme density to desertic expanses, Pansori, a soundscape of the 21st century presents itself as an opera you can walk into.