Gwangju Biennale Pavilion Project HIAP presents Finnish and South Korean artists

The Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP) is participating in the Gwangju Biennale’s first Pavilion Project with the exhibition Fictional Frictions. Curated by HIAP’s Jenni Nurmenniemi, the exhibition presents new commissions and recent artworks by South Korean and Finnish artists Jungju An & Sojung Jun (Black Night), Maelee Lee, Mire Lee, Nestori Syrjälä and Elina Vainio.

The exhibition features sculptural and sound installations touching upon aspects of the theme Imagined Borders. Five artists will highlight co-dependencies and continuums instead of ruptures, dissolving the dichotomies between past and present, individual and collective, micro and macrocosm, in relation to the environment of the Mugaksa Temple in Gwangju. “The exhibition avoids strict storylines, coherent narratives, and the politics of representation, and calls instead for careful listening to the faintest signals of change within the hum and rumble of the world”, says curator Jenni Nurmenniemi.

“Utilising fiction and embodied experience for knowledge- and world-building, the participating artists challenge traditional historiographies.”

In the exhibition, unfathomably slow, massive processes occurring in geological time intertwine with dramatic events that seem to transform societies in an instant, as well as with metamorphoses of a much smaller scale. When we address the topic of change in the early 21st century, ecological disquiet cannot easily be bypassed.

Climate change disrupts conventional understandings of scale, as the most mundane activities of individual human beings turn into political decisions with global impact.


Artists and artworks

Maelee Lee’s new sculptural installation makes palpable the tension between personal and collective ideas on what constitutes a historically significant event or a valued landscape. Her artwork resembles an archaeological excavation, much like the one now in Lee’s childhood hometown near Gwangju.

Elina Vainio constructs large-scale sand installations that contain subtle hints of civilisations past, present, or possibly yet to be. Through her sparse arrangements of largely abstract sand casts or near-identifiable found objects that either stand on or emerge from under the grainy expanses of evenly sifted sand, Vainio points to notions of impermanence and volatility inherent in any a given society and its ways of life.

Nestori Syrjälä focuses on the changes that human activities are causing to the climate and ecosystems across the planet. Syrjälä’s works often resonate with the anxieties caused by humans’ inability to change their course of action.

Mire Lee creates sculptures in which borders remain unclear. Even when verging upon pure abstraction, they seem capable of gnawing at boundaries and taxonomies of all kinds. They leak and bleed into each other, often consisting of moving parts with unpredictable choreographies.

Under the band name Black Night, artists Jungju An & Sojung Jun have recorded their first full-length album titled Mountain of Delusion. Their LP has six songs on each side forming a metaphoric landscape of the recent past in Gwangju. One side is derived from the personal, while the other emerges from prevailing common perspectives.


Exhibitor, venue and partners

HIAP fosters international dialogue with the aim of initiating and supporting experimentation, research, and cross-disciplinary creativity across national borders and diverse contexts of art. Every year HIAP offers 70–90 art professionals from around the world funded residencies of 1–3 months in duration.

Located in the 5.18 Memorial Park in Gwangju, Mugaksa is an urban Buddhist Temple of the Jogye Order. The temple is also a centre for cultural activities without any religious barriers. It hosts a gallery and a traditional tea house, and it’s known as a supporter of young artists from the region.

2018 Gwangju Biennale Pavilion Project_HIAP is realised by HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme at Mugaksa Temple in collaboration with Frame Contemporary Art Finland and with the support of Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland and Embassy of Finland, Seoul.


Fictional Frictions
2018 Gwangju Biennale Pavilion Project_HIAP
September 7–November 11, 2018
Mugaksa (230, Uncheon-ro, Seo-gu, Gwangju)


Fictional Frictions logos







Images: Choi Hyeanggeun and Sergio Urbina.