4th Gwangju Biennale
Theater of Life
by Meiro Koizumi
14th Gwangju Biennale : Soft and Weak like Water
7 April – 9 July 2023
Meiro Koizumi, Theater of Life (2023), five channel video installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist, MUJIN-TO Production and Annet Gelink Gallery. Commissioned by the 14th Gwangju Biennale and Han Nefkens Foundation.
We are happy to announce that Theater of Life (2023) by artist Meiro Koizumi (b.1976, Japan), produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation in collaboration with the Gwangju Biennale, will be premiered as part of this year's Biennale, Soft and Weak like Water, open to the public from April 7th to July 9th 2023.
Meiro Koizumi Is a video and performance artist based in Yokohama, Japan. Theater of Life (2023), which Koizumi conceived for the 14th Gwangju Biennale, focuses on the past and present of the Koryo-in (the Korean diaspora in Central Asia) community in Gwangju by tracing the history of Korean theatre. After it was established in 1932 in Kazakhstan, the theatre played an important role in formulating the identity of Koryo-in throughout the 20th century. Using photo documents from theatre as a starting point, 15 young people from the Koryo-in community in Gwangju were asked to create a new play in a two-day drama workshop, which took place on a theatre stage. Young people from the community struggle to learn the Korean language and find their place in Korean society. According to the Russian avant-garde playwright and theorist Nikolai Evreinov, humans have a ‘theatrical impulse', an impulse to transform one's own environment and identity through ritual and role-playing in everyday life. By following Evreinov's theory, the workshop aimed to help these young people find ways to actively transform their own identities against a backdrop of the burden of history and their struggles, by giving new meanings to the historical images that they were working from. The workshop was filmed on cameras, and the footage was developed into a five-channel video projection.
Meiro Koizumi (born in Gunma, Japan, in 1976) explores the relationships between the state/community and the individual, and between the human body and emotions, through experimental videos and performances that interweave reality and fiction. His solo exhibitions include "Dreamscapegoafuck" at MUJIN-TO Production (2019), "Battlelands" at Perez Art Museum Miami (2018), "Portrait of a Failed Silence", MUAC, Mexico City (2015), "Trapped Voice Would Dream of Silence", Arts Maebashi, Maebashi, Japan (2015), and "Project Series 99: Meiro Koizumi" at Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013). Recent group shows include Artes Mundi 9, National MUseum Cardiff (2021), Aichi Triennale (2019), "Leaving Echo Chember", Sharjah Biennale 14 (2018), "Proregress", 12th Shanghai Biennale (2018), The 9th Asia Pacific Triennale, Brisbane (2018), "Reenacting History", National Museum of Modern and Conteporary Art Gwacheon, Korea (2017), "The Grand Balcony", La Biennale Montréal, Montréal, Canada (2016), Jakarta Biennale, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015), and "Roppongi Crossing", Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2013). His experimental VR Theater piece "Prometheus Bound", which was premiered at Aichi Triennale 2019, won the Grand Prize in the 24th Art Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival. In 2021, he received the Artes Mundi 9 Prize (Cardiff, UK). His installation works are included in numerous public collections worldwide.
The 14th Gwangju Biennale, Soft and Weak like Water, takes its inspiration from a chapter of Dao De Jing, a fundamental Daoist text, which speaks of water's capacity to embrace contradictions and paradoxes. The Biennale proposes to imagine our shared planet as a site of resistance, coexistence, solidarity, and care, by thinking through the transformative and restorative potential of water as a metaphor, a force, and a method. It invites artists to engage with an alternative model of power that brings forth change, not with an immediate effect but with an endurance and pervasive gentleness that flows across structural divisions and differences.