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  • Dec 01, 2023

Weekly News Roundup: December 1, 2023

Work in progress image from ROBERT ZHAO RENHUI’s exhibition "Seeing Forest" for the Singapore Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Singapore Pavilion at 2024 Venice Biennale to Examine Environmental Disruption

Inspired by his explorations of secondary forests—regrown from land that was “deforested” by human intervention, such as development and plantation—Robert Zhao Renhui revealed details about his exhibition, titled “Seeing Forest” for the Singapore Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale. At a press conference on November 29 hosted by the Singapore Art Museum, Zhao shared that his recent research has focused on the multifaceted ecosystems of Singapore’s secondary forests. In Venice, he will exhibit a collection of videos and sculptural installations that explore the intersection between humans and the environment. “Secondary forests are a second chance for nature to find a way to reclaim its place after environmental and human disruptions,” he explained, adding that he hopes his “presentation captures the richness and variety of the sensuous surroundings.” Haeju Kim, the pavilion’s curator, said, “Zhao’s projects have served as lenses that highlight the resilience of nature and the various interactions that occur when such resilience overlaps with human life and society.” The 60th Venice Biennale runs from April through November 2024.

Exterior of the Gwangju Biennale Hall. Courtesy of the Gwangju Biennale.

Gwangju Biennale Planning Ambitious Program of National Pavilions

On November 30, the Gwangju Biennale Foundation (GBF) announced that its 15th edition, opening on September 7, 2024, will host the largest lineup of national pavilions to date, coinciding with the event’s 30th anniversary. The Gwangju Biennale Pavilion program will take place across the southwestern Korean city, including the metropolitan areas of Yanglim-dong and Dongmyeong-dong. The GBF anticipates participation from approximately 30 countries, with eight Southeast Asian nations—Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—already having confirmed their involvement. Park Yang-woo, president of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, expressed: “The Gwangju Biennial Pavilion, first launched in 2018, quickly established itself as a platform for cultural exchange, showcasing artists and artworks from leading international cultural institutions . . . We look forward to providing valuable opportunities for local residents and visitors to engage in diverse cultural expressions and artistic dialogues based in Gwangju and from around the world.” The 15th Gwangju Biennale, under artistic director Nicolas Bourriaud, is titled “PANSORI ― a soundscape of the 21st century” and will run through December 1, 2024.

The Africa Institute’s director SALAH M. HASSAN speaking at a conference held in Sharjah in December 2022. Courtesy The Africa Institute, Sharjah.

Conference at The Africa Institute Explores Art and Culture in the Western Indian Ocean

Sharjah’s multidisciplinary research hub, The Africa Institute of the Global Studies University, revealed plans for its upcoming two-day symposium titled “Colorful Threads: The Interwoven Worlds of Art and Culture in the Western Indian Ocean,” which runs from December 14 to 16, 2023. Open to the public, the program of presentations, discussions, and performances will explore the intersections between ecology, history, and cultural production in the islands surrounding the West Indian Ocean, from the eastern African coasts of Kenya and Mozambique to island nations of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, and beyond, highlighting environmental changes, the role of women and feminism, and cinematic and artistic representations of the region. Prita Meier, an associate professor of art history at New York University, and Laura Fair, professor of African history at New York’s Columbia University, co-organized “Colorful Threads,” which is a part of the yearlong series “Thinking the Archipelago: Africa’s Indian Ocean Islands.” Africa Institute director Salah M. Hassan explained the geographical focus: “The Indian Ocean has been a critical route for centuries bearing witness to remarkable circularities . . . enabling us to interpret Africa’s history, understand its present, and imagine its future.” The event is part of the Institute’s third annual exploration of a particular African community, environment, or culture, organized in 2023 in collaboration with scholars Jeremy Prestholdt, of the University of California, San Diego, and Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf and Uday Chandra from Georgetown University in Qatar.

The cocurators of the 2026 Kathmandu Triennale (left) NATALIE KING and (right) SUJAN CHITRAKAR. Photos by Giulia McGauran and Prastuti Chitrakar. Courtesy Siddhartha Arts Foundation, Kathmandu.

Kathmandu Triennale Selects Artistic Directors for 2026 Edition

On November 23, the Kathmandu Triennale named Nepali artist, educator, and curator Sujan Chitrakar, and Australian curator and writer Natalie King as the artistic directors for its fifth edition, set to open in February 2026. Themed “Coexistence,” the Triennale will explore “kinship among all beings, peoples, cultures, ecologies, faiths, and thoughts,” embracing diversity and seeking intimacy that transcends boundaries. In a statement, the Triennale pointed to “Chitrakar’s distinctive local perspective within the unique habitat and vantage point of Kathmandu alongside King’s international experience from the Global South,” as the reason they were selected to direct the 2026 edition. Organized by the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, the event was established in 2009; originally titled the Kathmandu International Art Festival, it was converted to a triennale format in 2017. The 2026 edition will mark its fifth iteration, with a continued mission to promote Nepali arts and culture and establish Kathmandu as an international arts hub in South Asia.

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