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July 17, 2010

Art-aches by the Number, Bummers by the Score

Maybe it's the hay fever (I sneeze like a Looney Tunes character with a snootful of pepper at dawn and dusk), maybe a couple of writing deadlines in the heat, maybe tending to my own painting and resentment at having to tend to anything else. But there's something about an e-mail press release that I got from The 8th Annual Gwangju Biennial in South Korea that's crawled under my craw.

I've been to a lot of these international contemporary art extravaganzas--albeit my geographic range has been limited to Santa Fe to the west and Kassel, Germany, to the east--and they've always struck me as a bit beside the point. Works of art, to me, aren't supposed to be attractions in a sideshow, rides in an amusement park, snack stands at a county fair. They're supposed to be savored, contemplated. Granted, some great works of art were created deliberately to knock the viewer on his/her sensory butt, to inspire awe rather than affection, to perturb rather than soothe the savage breast. And, on the face of it, there's nothing wrong with some cultural bureaucracy (a hip cultural bureaucracy, natch) plunking a lot of it down in a park in Venice or a bunch of galleries and museums within easy walking distance in Rotterdam, so that you can be an art glutton for a couple of days.

But the quantity angle--budget, number of works, tonnage of shipped goods, pages in the unreadable catalogue, etc.--is usually, if only moderately, played down. There's something a little tacky about a biennial or triennial or quinquennial touting, with trumpets, how much of this or that. It's like that woman in Brazil determined to hold the title of "world's largest breasts" even if she has to expand beyond 38-KKK to do it.

That, however, is kind of how they're spinning it in Gwangju. Take a look at some of the braggy numbers (not all of them--why pick on the birthdate [1919] of the oldest artist in the exhibition?), and see what you think.

THE 8TH GWANGJU BIENNALE BY THE NUMBERS
September 3, 2010 - November 7, 2010
Gwangju, South Korea

134: Number of artists in the exhibition.

28: Number of artists' nationalities.

104,883.54: Square feet of exhibition space.

594: Number of rotating participants in Sanja Ivekovic's living memorial On the Barricades, a work premiering at the Biennale, along with new productions by artists including Pawel Althamer, Roberto Cuoghi, Keren Cytter, Tom Holert, Overplus Project, Cindy Sherman, Haegue Yang, Jakub Ziółkowski, Artur Żmijewski, among others.

10,410: Length, in centimeters, of Philip-Lorca diCorcia's collection of one thousand Polaroids, entitled Thousand (2009).

3000: Number of photographs of people with teddy bears included in Ydessa Hendeles's The Teddy Bear Project (2002). The contents of the piece required four 40 ft. containers to be shipped to Gwangju.

729: Number of pages on which the three members of South Korean collective Eye Glass Shop have recorded the activities of their daily lives, from January 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010.

64: Number of densely collaged scrapbooks, ranging between 50 and 882 pages in length, that Japanese artist Shinro Ohtake has made since 1977.

15: Number of light tables needed to display Peter Fischli & David Weiss's work Visible World (1986-2001), which is comprised of 3,000 slides photographed during fifteen years of traveling.

7: Height, in centimeters, of Vertical Displacement in 7 Glass Tubes, one of Hermann Glöckner's miniaturized maquettes for public sculptures. Executed with medicine boxes, this is the smallest work in the Biennale.

14,977: Number of emails received by Mihee Ahn, Chief of Exhibition Team, since March 2009.

1.3 seconds: Time it took Peter Plagens to hit "delete" on the e-mail containing these stats. (Just kidding. They're here, aren't they?)

July 17, 2010 3:46 PM | | Comments (0)

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