Home » The union of Art and Physics carries a promise of harmonic futures: a review of Gyre, Korean National Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale

The union of Art and Physics carries a promise of harmonic futures: a review of Gyre, Korean National Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale

di Valentina Buzzi

“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated”

Donna Haraway

Reality is not what it seems is the title of a book written by physicist and science vulgariser Carlo Rovelli, it describes how the structure of the universe is very far from our everyday understanding of it. Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics would add “what we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning”.

For this 59th edition of the Venice Biennale, taking inspiration from the book “The Milk of Dreams” of surrealist author Lenora Carrington, Cecilia Alemani asked us to re-envision life through the prism of the imagination. Central to this curatorial line was the question of imagining possible futures beyond anthropocentrism, speculating over more or less probable paradigm shifts.

As recent history teaches us, breaking paradigms is a courageous act: the fall of certainties brought by postmodernism led us to re-think the concept of “truth”, while contemporary approaches to art broke the phenomenology of the aura. As a result, today art carries within itself a speculative capability, becoming a tool to suggest, provoke, enthrall, nudge, push, create, break thoughts and truths.

Yunchul Kim, Chroma III, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Studio Locus Solus

Yunchul Kim, artist selected for the Korean National Pavilion at the 59th Biennale, brings to Venice his own prism of imagination, to suggest that we – as in humans and non-humans, material and immaterial beings – may be more connected that we think. As Robert Bresson said, “let nothing be changed, and all be different”. Working at the intersection of art, literature, mythology, philosophy, and science, and drawing partly from particle physics as a source of inspiration, the artist invites us to look at the pavilion as a sprawling body of entanglements. Curated by Young-chul Lee, the exhibition Gyre brings a series of 5 large-scale kinetic installations and a site-specific wall drawing, each of them exploring how “boundaries swell and blur”.

In the words of the curatorial text, we read “consider the world as a labyrinth. The planets in the solar system orbit the galaxy in their own spirals, while auroras emerge radiantly with bursts of solar wind. Overflowing waves, scattering dusts and the convection currents of the earth’s mantle are all vortices, large and small, and they accompany myriad fragments of light passing through the trees that become witnesses to slow swirls at the edge of the sea. Such cosmic connections and circulations occur everywhere at every scale beyond our comprehension and those countless knots that gyrate constantly become things – this thinging again in a wordling word”

Yunchul Kim, Gyre at Korean Pavilion, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

The promise of quantum entanglement, a concept that divides theorists to date, is that (in very poor words) everything makes sense more as a whole, rather than if considered as a singular physical element. It starts from the premise that particles that are linked together in a certain way cannot be described independently anymore, no matter how far they get from each other. If in hard science this premise opens infinite and intricated doors for theoretical analysis, culturally speaking it allows us to make a very precise point: if we look at all things worldly as interconnected, we may shift to an understanding of the world that becomes utterly harmonic.

Consider, for example, the two installations Argos-the Swollen Suns (2022) and Chroma V. Whether the first one is built in order to react to muon particles, making this imperceptible matter invisible by triggering light and movement, Chroma V reacts to it, transforming the data received in pulsations and breaths which animate its monumental body.  By interacting with these movements, and questioning their origins, visitors might reconnect to that east-Asian imaginary which sees the human body as an interconnected universe.

We are all entangled: a little less than a decade ago, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made a very beautiful film, called “Babel”, which would explore that concept on a human level. Yunchul Kim asks us to go a step further: whereas the director would tell stories about how human lives are surprisingly linked one to another across the world, Gyre fundamentally breaks anthropocentrism from the equation, or perhaps it merges us deeper in this nest.

Yunchul Kim, Argos – the Swollen Suns. Korean Pavilion, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

If the way we observe nature directly comes from our method of questioning, physics teaches us that how we interpret things in relation to ourselves as humans is a false preconcept, meaning, reality is not what it seems.

Donna Haraway, another scholar who inspired Alemani’s vision for this Biennale, often argues how science and fiction are two very close frameworks. Whereas I don’t want to enter in the argument of the relativity of truth, what becomes pivotal in this case is how the union of Art and Physics in a joint narrative can help us move forward in imagining new ways of seeing.

And fundamentally is what the different artworks presented at the Korean Pavilion convey: they offer us a look at the micro to suggest the entanglement of all things belonging to the intricate and complex structure that is our universe, which we are part of. Beyond the highly technological aesthetic, there is an encompassing poetical essence.

Yunchul Kim, Impulse, 2018. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Studio Locus Solus

Carried by the pretense of belonging at the center of the world, we often forget that all things continue independently from us: to the micro and the macro we are irrelevant (a lesson learned during the pandemic), or we were before our promethean presumption of modernity broke harmony in exchange of a constant thirst for more. Yunchul Kim writes “the end of the world is amorph, metamorph” – perhaps this can be read as the end of a paradigm, and the birth of something new, hybrid, intertwined.

Renaissance was never the point to question (contrary to what many pointed out on their remarked critics to Alemani’s curation), but the Biennale can be an unveiling occasion to envision new renaissances.  If we look at how life works beyond materiality, we can be captured and inspired by the poesy of the structure of the world. Unveiled little by little by the five artworks of Yunchul Kim presented in Gyre, there is a promise of symbiotic futures.

Related Articles

Lascia un commento

Questo sito web utilizza i cookie per migliorare la tua esperienza. Accetta Cookies Leggi di più