11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Fernando Garcia-Dory

Hansaebong Dure, the only and last rice field in Gwangju, surrounded by tower blocks, becomes a vast stage for a collective performance about the relationship between the city and the ecosystem, and its social and cultural conceptions. Fernando García-Dory's (b. 1978, Madrid) Lament Of The Newt entails a temporary theater group of participants (named Dule Nale) from Hansaebung Dure and the neighboring community. Throughout a series of workshops held in the spring and summer of 2016, following the events and rituals around seasonal rice cultivation, possible scenes, characters, and stories emerge and are defined together.
Taking from the political genealogy of traditional village mask performances such as Ga-Myun, the adversary ’80s’ “Little Theater Movement” from Gwangju, contemporary synch pop choreographies and lip-dub, and recent farmers’ unions demonstrations and socioecological struggles in Korea, the action questions prevalent urban development models as well as their existing political support structures.

The field itself comes into play, with all of its extensions and corners, water streams, plants, and other non-human organisms coalescing as a very community of residents, at times exchanging roles: animals play the humans, a soundsystem of a car, CCTV, as well as the figure of the hydrobiologist and sacred supranatural beings, or the Rocks choir, all make for a sort of tableau vivant of repetitive actions with roles enacted as if they were GIFs around the rice field.
Lament Of The Newt calls both for a self-recognition of the group's decades-long resistance to city council development plans, express micro-histories and affections to strengthen the group internally, and also for the articulation of a cultural representation beyond the everyday for the value of these self-managed agroecological spaces and their challenges ahead to reach Gwangju’s audiences. The performance, held before the rice harvest, will be presented twice in September.

Trained in art as well as rural sociology and agroecology, García-Dory explores the relationship between nature and culture. Since 2010, Garcia-Dory has been involved in developing INLAND, a project about a para-institution opening a space for land-based collaborations, economies, and “communities-of-practice” as a substrate for post-contemporary art cultural forms. Appearing in different forms in different countries, and dissolving his individual agency in the forming of the collective, INLAND Europa publishes books, make shows or cheese, advises as a consultant to the EU Commission DG Agri on the use of art for rural development processes, and recovers an abandoned village in an undisclosed location. García-Dory calls it “learning to do together. By doing.” AM


Growing up in a abandoned village offered me the possibility of encountering a fading rural culture, and meeting peasants and shepherds offered me other ways of looking at ecosystems, our relation with animals, with others, productive processes, rhythms, observation, and patience. I studied fine arts because I thought that art can be a vehicle to communicate what otherwise would be silenced, and I decided to take that position in order to think of other forms of organizing ourselves and our relation with the world. I remember finding a common thread in many readings, including Novalis, Friedrich Schiller, William Blake, William Morris, Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, the Frankfurt School, and Joseph Beuys, about a certain intention in art, with regards to social change and human development. During those years I felt that the established space for art was reductive, and moved from drawing and sculpture to create a cooperative as a mutual learning structure. I spent time with indigenous people, where I learned a lot, including about the role of cultural production in the everyday, and came back to work in the rural areas I belong to. I approached Agroecology, microbiology, and complexity. I also experienced how established arts can weaken and instrumentalize social processes, and the importance of being aware, as an artist, of the strategic balance between doing, presenting, and representation, reality and suggestion. Some of the works I've started are still going a decade later and that is an opportunity to observe how they evolve towards a system for creating material conditions of existence in which an aesthetic practice can exist. I always like scale models.