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The curatorial approach describes a folly as a critical object that oscillates between aesthetic autonomy and social-political potential. Situated in a field between a decontextualized status and contextualized condition the Gwangju Folly projects aim to readdress the contested question of public space.
The negotiation of public space in Gwangju has played a crucial role in the democratization of South Korea and has eventually become a global model and reference point for effective grass root political mobilization. During the May 18, 1980 Democratic Uprising the city center became an urban stage for public demonstrations that triggered political transformation in the country. Today, a multitude of commemorative plaques, signs and memorials mark historical sites of the uprising throughout Gwangju. In 2011, the Gwangju Uprising received global recognition through UNESCO who included the movement into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Instead of understanding public space as a mere question of preservation, the project aims to use the Gwangju Folly project as an investigative frame to examine the present day constitution of spatial practice in contemporary Gwangju as well as in a global arena. The project will feature several artists, architects, writers and collectives from diverse contexts. Expanding select locations across the city, Gwangju Folly will present new commissions this year. The physical manifestations of the project will be accompanied by a symposium, several workshops and a publication.
The spatial strategy for selecting Folly sites is based on an investigation into the spatial-political order of contemporary Gwangju. This urban research will produce an inventory of sites in which political power in Gwangju is constituted and manifested, ranging from formal institutions such as the town hall or district government offices, serving the citizens of Gwangju on a daily basis, to police station, or civil society institution. The urban research will be conducted in cooperation with Gwangju universities as well as the local citizens. The resulting spatial archive will serve as a basis for the definition of Folly sites.
The invited teams will be asked to interpret the ambivalent dual function inherent in the typology of architectural follies - between contextualization and decontextualization, between serving everyday needs of citizens yet also questioning complacency by provoking political discourse and possibly action:
- to be contextual and practical, offering a new, hitherto missing practical public function such as improved public space, public facilities, a public access or improving an existing one; thus can be enjoyed by the citizens of Gwangju in an everyday basis.
- to provide a sense of rupture, enigma, the unexpected, which will provoke a multitude of links between past histories and myths and present day discourses on issues of human rights and citizen participation in Gwangju and across the globe.
Thus, the Follies will become strategic interventions which are local/ in-situ but, at the same time, decontextualized and therefore acknowledging that discourse on citizens rights today blurs all temporal dimensions of past, present and future and unfolds across complex spatial and political geographies and actor networks blurring local and global scales. It is this special agency of the folly to activate the space between everyday and utopia, to serve practical needs yet at the same time become stages, which activate and provoke discourse, which will be tested and celebrated in Gwangju in 2012.
Gwangju Folly II
Commissioned works from architects and artists to challenge the public space in Gwangju
Philipp Misselwitz and Eui Young Chun
Markus Weisbeck / Surface