Past Exhibition

Spring of Democracy

June 3 – July 5, 2020

2F, 3F Art Sonje Center

Spring of Democracy

This year is the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Democratization Movement. It marks a civic demonstration in 1980, which was a pivotal event in South Korea that catalyzed its move toward democracy. Spring of Democracy is commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation to remember this defining moment in South Korea’s history.

The exhibition is organized across two floors of Art Sonje Center in Seoul. On one floor, viewers are first invited to walk back in time, weaving their way between photographs taken by Korean journalists during the ten days of civic resistance against the military government and works of art generated over the span of four decades that represent various moments of this important democratization movement and its resonance in contemporary South Korean society. The other floor of Spring of Democracy juxtaposes different languages of archiving and dissemination, ranging from a selection of minjung woodcuts, titled A Testimony of Resistance, guest curated by art historian Jinha Kim to Suntag Noh’s Forgetting Machines (2006-2020) which reflects upon memorialization through funerary photography.

Spring of Democracy, furthermore, reviews how documentation of the civilians’ resistance has permeated popular culture through cinematic imagination. Gwangju Story (1996), photographs by South Korean photographer Heinkuhn Oh that he took on the film set of A Petal (1996), a re-enactment of the 1980 uprising, and Escaping Gwangju (2000), posters of a imagined film about a low ranking solider in the South Korean army attempting to escape the memory of torture, span both floor levels of the exhibition. These works offer a bridge between the images taken by journalists in May 1980 and a cinematic language that appeals to audiences too young to have been present themselves.

June 3 – July 5, 2020
2F, 3F Art Sonje Center
Bae Young-hwan, Chang-seong Lee, Cooperativa Crater Invertido, Heinkuhn Oh, Hong Sung-dam, Jürgen Bertram, Jürgen Hinzpeter, Kyung-taek Na, Lee Bul, Minouk LIM, Mircea Suciu, Seung Woo Back, Seung-chan Gwon, Suntag Noh, Tae-kyu Park, Tim Shorrock, Yeon-gyun Kang
Organized by
Gwangju Metropolitan City, Gwangju Biennale Foundation, Asia Culture Center & Asia Culture Institute
Curated by
Ute Meta Bauer
Assistant Curator
Kathleen Ditzig
Commissioned by
Gwangju Biennale Foundation
Co-organized by
Art Sonje Center, May 18 Memorial Foundation, 5·18 Archive, The Secretariat of the May 18th 40th Anniversary Seoul Commission