reviews

Hyo Sook Sung’s “Learning Council” workshop, Hanjin Heavy Industries labor union office, Busan, South Korea, September 5, 2012.

the 2012 Busan Biennale

Hyo Sook Sung’s “Learning Council” workshop, Hanjin Heavy Industries labor union office, Busan, South Korea, September 5, 2012.

WHAT KIND OF EXHIBITION might reestablish art’s capacity to engage in, even generate, a genuine public sphere? This is asking a lot, of course: Assembling artworks that thematize various forms of injustice does not necessarily meet the challenge (and exhibitions that do often simply preach to the converted), nor does the arch form of “participation,” wherein experiences are preplanned for compliant viewers, and which characterizes the worst of relational aesthetics. In fact, one of the biennial format’s most nefarious effects (whether intended or not) is to simulate social benefits—such as political engagement and public debate—while foreclosing them in favor of representing the interests of financial and cultural elites. Museums and biennials typically conform to two interrelated models: They function as engines of development and gentrification for established world

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