JUMP INTO THE UNKNOWN : 56th Venice Biennale
Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
“Jump into the Unknown” presents the works of 40 international artists and marks the 20th anniversary of the International Environmental Art Symposium – Nine Dragon Heads.
Nine Dragon Heads is an interdisciplinary platform where artists from across the 5 continents work in locations that may be environmentally, economically or politically troubled, following important cultural, historical and geopolitical routes. Initiated in South Korea in 1995 in response to the destruction of an important historical site, Nine Dragon Heads has evolved to address varying crises and transitory situations in localized and situation-specific ways.
The title of the project “Jump into the Unknown” refers to the inherently spontaneous nature of the International Environmental Art Symposium which will react to the particular geographic and environmental situation of Venice and la Biennale di Venezia.
“Jump into the Unknown” in Venice reiterates the nomadic practice of Nine Dragon Heads – a form of open air research which engages the city of Venice and three islands in the Venetian Lagoon: Murano, Lido, Pellestrina.
The project will be accompanied by an exhibition of working traces, artifacts and performances at the Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore from 9 May to 18 June, 2015.
“Jump into the Unknown” brings together site-specific work, installation, video, sculpture, photography and performance. It synthesizes and facilitates joint and individual works, while threads of overlapping artistic inquiry are produced in a process of evolving collaborative association. Participating artists do not aim to place full stops or to answer specific questions. Rather, they look for the creation of a space where experimental open air and public art-practice results in an ethical artistic message.
Against the background of Nine Dragon Heads wider practice, “Jump into the Unknown” is un-curated. Working for the past twenty years without a dominant curatorial figure, the un-curated format is a touchstone of the self-organizing ability of Nine Dragon Heads. It is an artistic enterprise where research-based activity does not look for the creation of an immediate visual effect. The strength of “Jump into the Unknown” is not the production of a final work but a provisional, unfinished, incomplete, and ongoing search for meaning.
“Jump into the Unknown” is not supported by any formal umbrella institution or major foundation. The majority of organizational functions are implemented directly by the Nine Dragon Heads participating artists, with directorial overview and coordination provided by Park Byoung Uk, the project’s artistic director.
“Jump into the Unknown” is organized in collaboration with the Venice based Nuova Icona – “associazioneculturale per le arti”, a non-profit cultural association, founded in Venice in 1993, and dedicated to the support and promotion of contemporary visual arts.
Scientific Advisors to “Jump into the Unknown” in Venice include Luca Pes – historian, VIU Assistant Dean and Director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Francesca Zennaro – environmentalist and researcher, TEN Research Center.
The project is commissioned by Magda Guruli (Georgia), Vittorio Urbani (Italy) and Kim Jai Kwan (S. Korea). Park Byoung Uk, the artistic director of "Jump into the Unknown” is an initiator, producer and artist based in South Korea. He is the founder and creative force behind Nine Dragon Heads.
Nine Dragon Heads : background
The Environmental Art Symposium “Nine Dragon Heads”, was initiated in South Korea by Park Byoung Uk in response to the destruction of an important historical site in 1996, and has evolved from the original specific eco-political motivation into an open interdisciplinary platform where an association of artists from all over the world implement individual and collaborative art projects related to humanitarian, political, environmental and cultural issues.
The emergence of the environmental art initiative Nine Dragon Heads was inspired by concern over the natural, cultural, historical and archaeological landscape of South Korea and coincided with a period of industrial rise and profound political change. Arising in the context of economic and infrastructural development, South Korea was a country actively positioning itself on the global socio-political, educational, artistic and cultural scene.
The origins of Nine Dragon Heads are part of a distinct continuum of artistic development in Korea, beginning in the 1980’s and 90’s with a small group of artists (contemporaries of Mr Park Byoung Uk) who wanted to consider artistic and philosophical problems outside of traditional Korean art forms and who were motivated to remain under the radar of the military regime and government control in place at that time.
In that political environment a significant thread of South Korea's contemporary art development took place in off-site projects, held within rural mountainous areas and remote natural sites. Examples of other artistic projects that evolved out of the activity of this early group are the Baggart Art project and the Gwangju Biennale, both of which still operate in outdoor symposia formats after thirty years of activity. Nine Dragon Heads has an historic social and collegial connection to these histories but is distinct in its specific ethical motivation.
During twenty years of activity Nine Dragon Heads has evolved out of specifically formative geo-political and art historical backdrops to investigate a broader range of transitional environmental, economic and political situations. A further important evolution for Nine Dragon Heads, which separates the thread of its concerns from other contemporary site related projects in Korea began in 2006 when the project became actively nomadic. The large number of international artists who attended Nine Dragon Heads events through its formative years continually confronted the project with the kinds of conceptual considerations that arise in international conversations about the globalization of art practice and politics of locality. It was a natural progression for the project to begin to engage with other specific localities and their eco-political histories by traveling.
Working in locations with transitional characteristics that may be environmentally, economically and/or politically troubled, on important cultural, historical and geopolitical routes has become a particular feature of working within Nine Dragon Heads. It is noteworthy that Nine Dragon Heads is an inherently flexible model capable of responding perceptively and with focused spontaneity to the inevitably unexpected contextual conditions which occur within the immediate surroundings of each location the group is engaging with artistically.
Nine Dragon Heads has worked on locations on the South Korean Peninsula and its islands, including the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) between the North and South of Korea. Other areas recently engaged include Bosnia/Herzegovina, the South Caucasus; Georgia, and Central Asian locations; Uzbekistan, Turkey, China, Tibet and Mongolia. Past projects include locations in Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.