‘MaytoDay’ brings up painful memory of Gwangju Democratization Movement for remembrance

By Park Yuna
  • Published : May 30, 2020 - 16:01
  • Updated : May 30, 2020 - 16:01

“That Place” by Gwon Seung-chan (Gwangju Biennale Foundation)

Memories of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising will be brought back next month at the exhibition “MaytoDay,” organized by Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

The Gwangju Democratization Movement took place in May 1980 when civilians protested against military strongman Chun Doo-hwan, who came to power in a military coup in December 1979. Martial law troops mobilized in Gwangju to suppress the demonstrations killed more than 200 citizens and wounded more than 3,000 -- the highest number of casualties since the Korea War.

The truth about the massacre remains hidden as former President Chun refuses to admit his involvement. The trauma of the painful incident remains deeply embedded in the hearts of Gwangju’s citizens.

The special exhibition, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the uprising, will showcase 190 works including press photographs taken at the scene, video art, films and woodblock prints by artists who experienced the democratization movement firsthand. to show how the painful history can be remembered by different art medium. The artworks have been curated from previous Gwangju Biennale since 1995. 

Installation view of “MaytoDay” at Art Sonje Center in Jongno-gu, central Seoul (Gwangju Biennale Foundation)

The exhibition, curated by Ute Meta Bauer, will take place June 3 through July 5 at Art Sonje Center and Namu Artist Space on June 3-30 in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. While the main exhibition will be held at Art Sonje Center, the woodblock prints will be displayed in the latter place.

Upon entering the Art Sonje Cetner, a photo of a soldier at a military base that was mobilized to suppress the democratization movement faces a civilian who stands at the Democracy Plaza, the square where the mass demonstrations against the troops were held. Photographer Gwon Seung-chan named the piece “That Place.”

“The scar of the holocaust remains deeply in the heart of Gwangju citizens, and I wanted to demonstrate the persisting pain as the truth of the martial law troops is still unveiled,” Gwon told the press on Thursday during a special tour.

The exhibition is part of the global project hosting exhibitions in four countries -- South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and Argentina -- to promote the spirit of Gwangju Democratic Movement. The exhibitions will take place from May to September and the round-up exhibition that aggregates the exhibitions held in the four countries will take place in September in Gwangju, running throughout the 13th Gwangju Biennale, scheduled to run Feb. 26, 2021, to May 9, 2021.

The 13th Gwangju Biennale was pushed back to next year from September this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Park Yuna (