Folly II Overview & Concept

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Folly II

Folly II Overview & Concept

Contextualizing the potential of spatial interventions. 

Since the mid-17th century, in literature, art and architecture, the folly has been employed as a detour into delirium: nonetheless, a critical medium, oscillating between aesthetic autonomy and social-political potential. As a spatial intervention, the folly can be understood as a rupture, a strategic site questioning the constraints of norms. Gwangju Folly II follows a curatorial approach that exploits the ambiguities of a folly as a critical tool of inquiry to address the condition of public space.

Since the May 18, 1980 Democratic Uprising, the negotiation of public space in Gwangju has played a crucial role in the political transformation of South Korea—it has even come to signify a global model for effective political mobilization.

Contextualizing the potential of spatial interventions, we invited eightteams of artists, architects and writers to reinvent the typology of the folly and to test the constitution of public space today—in contemporary Gwangju as well as in the international context.

Nikolaus Hirsch 

Director of Gwangju Folly II 

Throughout history, follies have been used widely in architecture, visual arts, and literature as a provocation, a frivolous diversion or strategic places of madness and satire freed from the constraints of societal norms. Follies have been employed as a critical medium or object, oscillating between aesthetic autonomy and socio-political potential and situated in a field between decontextualized status and contextualized condition.

Nikolaus Hirsch (director), Philipp Misselwitz and Eui Young Chun (curators) have developed a curatorial approach for Gwangju Folly II, which uses the ambiguities of a Folly as a tool of inquiry to address the expectations of public space. The transformative potential of public space has been etched into public consciousness ever since the ten-day pro-democracy uprising in May 1980, which took place in the streets and squares of Gwangju. Then, the city center became an urban stage for public demonstrations that triggered political transformation in the country. Today, a multitude of commemorative plaques, signs and memorials mark historical sites of the uprising throughout Gwangju. In 2011, the Gwangju Uprising received global recognition through UNESCO who included the movement into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

Revisiting some of these historic sites, a series of newly commissioned Follies seek to test the constitution and potential of public space today, in contemporary Gwangju as well as in the global political arena. The project invited teams of artists, architects, writers and collectives from diverse contexts to interpret the ambivalent dual function inherent in the typology of Follies – between contextualization and decontextualization, between serving everyday needs of citizens yet also questioning complacency by provoking political discourse and possibly action:
  • to be contextual and practical, offering a new, hitherto missing practical public function such as improved public space, public facilities, a public access or improving an existing one;
  • to provide a sense of rupture, enigma, the unexpected, which will provoke a multitude of links between past histories and present day discourses on issues of human rights and citizen participation in Gwangju and across the globe. 
Thus, the Follies become strategic interventions which are in-situ but, at the same time, decontextualized and therefore acknowledging that discourse on citizens rights today blurs all temporal dimensions of past, present and future and unfolds across complex spatial and political geographies and actor networks blurring local and global scales.