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



Yun Hu

Hu Yun’s (b. 1986, Shanghai) new project The Preparation Room is an installation based on two archives in Gwangju: the 5.18 Archives and the archives of the Biennale itself. One is specifically devoted to the Gwangju Uprising of 1980 when the citizens rose up against the murderous paratroopers who were sent by the regime to stop students protesting martial laws. The other is the repository of the Biennale, which took place for the first time in 1995, partly as a living memorial to the Uprising. Despite these explicit references, the installation is not an exhibit of historical objects or archival materials, only holding empty cabinets and shelves, and a collection of obscured photographs that Hu Yun took during his multiple research visits to the city and the archives. In a two-channel video based on these visits, questions are raised about the nature of archives and the organization of memory, and how such means and methods produce knowledge for the future.

The installation reflects the emptiness and coldness that the artist encountered inside institutional bodies that regulate the extents of public access to historical knowledge, a mechanism that runs by staging moderated performances of memory, resulting in structural obscurity rather than collective remembrance. The title The Preparation Room invokes the administrative space of organizing archival materials, where objects receive designated meanings, official narratives of events are modified, and spontaneous encounters with history are blocked. By interlacing two archival frameworks and blurring their distinctive perimeters, the artist explores the relationship between artistic and archival practices: Can our memories be revisited in the name of art?

In his practice, Hu Yun revisits historical moments in order to provide alternative readings, a process that also informs the artist’s self-reflection on his native and personal ties. His project Our Ancestors (2013) maps the history of China’s modernity by mixing historical figures, family testimonies, and projected images of the artist himself. In this way, Hu Yun lays bare the essentially subjective nature of storytelling, while playing on its charm and its mystery, vis-à-vis the constructed objectivity of institutional meta-narratives. AM


In 2009, I assisted my partner Biljana Ciric with a project titled “History in Making: Shanghai 1979-2009” that archived Shanghai contemporary art history, from documenting artist interviews on video to installing an exhibition. I learned a lot through the interviews we conducted with an older generation of artists, while working and living as an artist myself.
At the same time, I encountered various aspects of exhibition-making; the complexities of the role of the artist as well as that of archivist, the exhibition designer, and the curator slowly entered my work.

Since 2012, I’ve made several trips in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Southeast Asia, following the footsteps of a number of missionaries, including St. Francis Xavier, Matteo Ricci, and Michele Ruggieri who came to the region in different time periods. For each trip, I was led by the factual and the imaginary: relics, graveyards, and the last view the missionary saw while dying.

And the most recent one is the birth of my son.