Monday, May 28, 2007

2007 World Ceramic Biennale: Reshaping Asia

Out of a need to be independent and to pursue my own interests here in Korea, I went to Icheon on Sunday to see the 2007 World Ceramic Biennale. There were a couple moments when I wished I knew more Korean and that the Korean schools were more successful in teaching English, but I managed just fine. The Biennale was located at the Icheon World Ceramic Center, which is a group of buildings set in a park at the base mountain next to a lake. It's a pleasant place, far from the noise and chaos of downtown, with lots of outdoor sculptures and quiet resting areas.

The Biennale was viewed as a family affair and there were kids and strollers everywhere. I am normally somewhat reluctant to address misbehaving children, but I actually tapped three kids on the shoulder to get them to stop touching the artwork. I was impressed that there were lots of hands on activities oriented towards the younger set outside. It's unfortunate that the kids weren't reminded that the touching stopped when they entered the exhibition space.

The international competition was divided into two categories: "Ceramics as Expression" and "Ceramics for Use". The top pieces from the "Ceramics for Use" category were on display in either Yeoju or Gwangju, the two other host cities. The main exhibit in Icheon displayed the results from the "Ceramics as Expression" category. Of the 2,444 works submitted by 1,436 artists from 66 countries, about 150 pieces were on display, including the 26 finalist pieces from this category. The secondary exhibit was called "Ceramics, Skin of Asia" and displayed the works of 26 artists from 14 countries. Unfortunately photography was not permitted in any of the inside galleries.

I've always enjoyed ceramics and this was the first collection I've seen dedicated to modern ceramics. I was impressed by a lot of what I saw and it gave me a lot to think about. I am happy I went primarily because I needed to affirm some of the reasons why I chose to come to Asia. I wanted to be exposed to a different aesthetic and have been disappointed so far. Beijing was temporarily restorative but I still have to reconcile myself to the fact that I'm living in a small city in Korea. I feel slightly more reassured after this weekend. Now at least I've seen some of the creativity that is flowing beneath the drab urban surface.


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