March 2, 2024

New York based artist Cecilia Vicuña had planned to perform in Gwangju, the latest milestone in a meteoric rise in late career. However, the Chile-born 73-year-old artist chose to stay at home. “Now I hardly ever go to town or anywhere else,” she said of TriBeCa.

Vicuña, however, was happy to work. She wrote a poem in honor of the Korean-American writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, who was raped and murdered in New York in 1982, and took on the composer Ricardo Gallo. It is played in a park in front of the Gwangju National Museum. She also sent charismatic paintings by revolutionaries and thinkers such as Camilo Torres Restrepo (1929-1966), the Colombian Roman Catholic priest and guerrilla fighter.

Other artists have opted for virtual formats. Lithuanian performer Kira Nova worked in Los Angeles and recorded playful videos that offer a creation story. She played some kind of crazy, free-thinking aerobics teacher. They live on the website of the Biennale, on which the artistic directors have also published countless discussions. “An idiot state of mind is what I’m proposing as the solution for these days,” Nova said of her unconventional philosophy.

Scattered all over the world, the artists of “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning” may never really meet, but in Gwangju their work has formed a multi-layered and action-packed show. Shortly before graduation, artists and organizers gathered in a serpentine line for the great dance that Ayas had mentioned. The procession moved, drummers clang loudly on their instruments, children in uniforms cradled their arms and EightOS dancers maneuvered around them. Videographers rushed around capturing everything.

After a break, about 20 people involved in the show gathered on pillows for a tea ceremony chaired by Kwan, the Buddhist nun, in the cavernous, silent exhibition hall. She said that she wanted the audience to relax after their work and difficulties.

Through a translator, Kwan said she hoped her audience would think about how I will live in the future. That could be a motto for this hard-won biennial that is now waiting for viewers who could grapple with exactly this question.