• Fri 03 07 – Sun 27 09 2020 •
Gwangju Lessons

curated by BINNA CHOI

In turbulent times such as these, artists are repeatedly confronted with the question of the form that artistic involvement can take. In the exhibition Gwangju Lessons, curator and Academy Member Binna Choi examines the democratic uprising in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 – called the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, 5·18 or Gwangju Uprising – and the Gwangju People’s Art School (1983–86) that emerged as a consequence. Moreover, she uses these events to rethink the contents and strategies of political and artistic interventions today. Such an undertaking is of urgent relevance, in light not only of the worldwide protest movements in recent years but also of the resurgence of autocratic forms of government.

In reaction to the trauma of seeing the democracy movement violently suppressed by South Korea’s military junta, a group centered around the artist Songdam Hong founded the People’s Art School. The school was open to all and provided a creative space for experimenting with democratic thinking and action while avoiding the recreation of new hierarchies. The artistic process was intended to foster a sense of community and a shared approach to a new vision of society, with the final artistic product being regarded as less of a priority than togetherness and exchange. The core artistic technique was the woodcut, which could also be used outside of the courses for creating and distributing flyers and banners. Building community and self-organization were thus invariably viewed as a form of self-empowerment.

In Gwangju Lessons, the Rwandan Dutch artist Christian Nyampeta takes the memories of the Gwangju Uprising and the People’s Art School as a starting point for his artistic reflection. He creates a dialog between the woodcuts made in the People’s Art School and materials taken from the 5·18 Archives, so that visitors can experience the many different voices of the community, the history of the uprising and the school itself. At the same time, he supplements this historical material with narratives that locate the Gwangju Uprising within a global context – as an event of relevance to us in the here and now. Nyampeta’s art creatively reinterprets the questions that arise and the examination of the historic sources. His interdisciplinary work in the fields of art, industrial design and art theory examines questions of how people who find themselves in conflict-ridden contexts are able to live with one another.

The exhibition actively invites visitors to participate: The visitors can take the linoleum tiles made by Christian Nyampeta off the wall. At a workstation set up especially for this purpose, linoleum prints can be made with the panels and taken home.

Installation view: Gwangju Lessons, Akademie der Künste der Welt (Academy of the Arts of the World, ADKDW), 2020 | Photos: Mareike Tocha

Another Roadmap School Africa Cluster (ARAC), Gwangju Remix for Un/Chrono/Logical Timeline, paper, transparent vinyl, 2020, Akademie der Künste der Welt (Academy of the Arts of the World, ADKDW) | Photo: Mareike Tocha

Christian Nyampeta, A Dedication to the People´s Art School, workstation with printing tools, books, references, curtain, 2020, Akademie der Künste der Welt (Academy of the Arts of the World, ADKDW) | Photos: Mareike Tocha

Christian Nyampeta, Scenes from the Revolution, linoleum carvings, 2020, Akademie der Künste der Welt (Academy of the Arts of the World, ADKDW) | Photos: Mareike Tocha

Opening Hours: Fri–Sun, 2-7pm
Free Admission
Venue: Academyspace, Herwarthstr. 3, 50672 Cologne

We look forward to welcoming you soon as a visitor to the exhibition Gwangju Lessons. Please note that, for your, our and other visitors' security, the compliance with the general rules of hygiene and in perticular the use of a mask covering mouth and nose are mandatory during a visit. If you have any questions, please contact us at +49 (0)221 337748 92.
Hygiene measures as PDF

Gwangju Lessons is funded by Kunststiftung NRW.

The exhibition is part of MaytoDay, a special exhibition program hosted by the Gwangju Metropolitan City, the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, Asia Culture Center and Asian Culture Institute to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement. MaytoDay is a collaboration between Gwangju Biennale Foundation, 5·18 Archives, May 18 Memorial Foundation, Akademie der Künste der Welt (Cologne), Art Sonje Center (Seoul) and Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts (Taipei).