Daegu Photo Biennale 2023 — Selections

Conceptual Projects
Selections
Published in
7 min readOct 30, 2023

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If you have been following us for some time, you will know that I have always been attracted to the Asian art scene. This personal interest was accentuated last year when I had the opportunity to visit Seoul for the first time. In 2022, I attended the first edition of Frieze held in the South Korean capital. I remember sitting on the plane reflecting on the Korean artists I knew. Unfortunately, not too many names came to my mind. That’s when I realised that this was the best moment to dig into it and Conceptual Projects could help to introduce them to an audience that might not be very familiar with Korean artists as well.

At first glance there aren’t too many Korean galleries that focus solely on photography. And even if the country has important collections, museums and even festivals specialising in our medium, its repercussion is not comparable to other formats such as video, installation or painting.

Luckily, South Korea hosts one of the most important photography festivals in Asia: the Daegu Photo Biennale, which celebrates its 9th Edition this year. Daegu is a southern city which was once known as the “capital of photography”. Its relationship with the medium played a leading role in Korean photography history. The Biennale started in 2006 and since then, has been expanding the concepts of photography as a form of art. For its 9th Edition, the biennial structures around a theme and, divided across ten galleries, it pays attention to the unique characteristics of the medium. In the following article we highlight works for each of the rooms that constitute the Main Exhibition entitled The Ongoing Power of Photography.

Taufenbach and Pourtout. The herbarium of shadows, 2023.

Gallery 1. Here and Now. The Power of Testimony

Edouard Taufenbach and Bastien Pourtout are an artistic duo who have been working together since 2018. Their inclusion in this first gallery entitled Here and Now is due to the connection of their practice with a specific place and moment. In The herbarium of shadows, this relationship between space and time is evident. Whilst one of them operates the camera, the other spreads a sheet on which the shadows of nearby trees are reflected. This sheet acts as a screen that projects the leaves that are at that moment bathed in sunlight, but at the same time also hides the body and the landscape.

Gyoosik Kim. Test of Harmonograph, 2023

Gallery 2. Light Bursts. Luminous Recording Power

Consisting of images generated from a laser swinging across a photographic surface, Gyoosik Kim’s Test of Harmonograph is literally based on the idea of capturing light. Kim explores the fundamentals and origins of photography without being subject to human control. The pendulum holding the light source follows random trajectories in front of the sensitive paper and draws these ethereal images on it.

Jun Ahn. The Tempest, 2020

Gallery 3. Time Stops. Immediate Instant Power

When I first saw this image I automatically associated its composition, palette and explosiveness with some of Peter Paul Rubens’ works, relatively speaking. I cannot say for sure whether Jun Ahn was inspired by baroque painters, but it is undeniable that her image is very reminiscent of the extravagant use of resources and ostentation typical of 17th century European painting. This photograph was captured at Paldang Dam after a release of water, creating this complex and unique instant which won’t be possible to appreciate without the use of a camera.

Yoshiki Hase. Dessin (Drawing) series, 2018–2020

Gallery 4. Time Flies. The Power to Inscribe Time

In line with the previous image, Gallery 4 also focuses on the relationship between photography and time. Yoshiki Hase is not so much interested in capturing an exclusive frame that cannot happen again, but rather in the power of photography to register a moment that may add new meaning to the notion of landscape. In his Dessin (Drawing) series, Hase intervenes in different natural places creating a coloured frame that changes our self-awareness of the landscape and alters our perception of it.

Pipo Nguyen-duy. Hotel Window, 2016–2019

Gallery 5. Before and After. Power of Repetition and Comparison

Pipo Nguyen-duy’s childhood was complex. Born and raised near a demilitarised zone in Vietnam, he was forced to emigrate years later to the United States as a refugee. When he came back, he spent over four months in a Ho Chi Minh City hotel, where he started these series. From his room, Nguyen-duy started to record what was happening in the street and took numerous photos from daylight until dusk. With the camera permanently fixed and pointing to the same street, he exposes and criticises the Vietnamese surveying system and how it can be used to map their culture and lifestyle.

Kyudong Sim. Gositel, 2017

Gallery 6. Point of View. Sight Power

A Gositel (or Gosiwon 고시원) is a type of single room that was designed specifically for students preparing for their exams. These tiny apartments are common in South Korea. Kyudong Sim found them an interesting social subject to rethink the way we live. Due to the nature of these spaces, Sim had to reject the traditional horizontal view and decided to use a top-down perspective, which is unusual in contemporary photography. The results are images that offer a fairly accurate idea of what it is like to live in a unit with these characteristics and at the same time outline a new way of illustrating the space.

Marta Zgierska. Votive Figure, 2019

Gallery 7. Close Up. The Power to Enlarge

In order to distance herself from the trauma of a severe car accident, Marta Zgierska began researching body parts. Covered with a thin layer of wax and in a very uniform way, the different parts of her own body give a soft sensation of beauty. These pleasant images conceal a painful process, as she applies this wax directly to her skin and, when it dries, the pain of the trauma returns. With her work, Zgierska questions the current canons of beauty by exposing the fragility of the body and, in an almost therapeutic way, directly explores the pain resulting from a traumatic event.

Gohar Dashti. Land/s series, 2019

Gallery 8. Setting the Stage. Staging Power

Gohar Dashti is one of the most notorious Iranian contemporary artists. In her work, she focuses on her native country, its history and geography. Land/s series look into how a place can be redefined by immigrants who try to rebuild their familiar topographies in a foreign land. She instals large photographs in the middle of deserted landscapes with the aim of making two different territories coexist and re-think the idea of “home” and “displacement”.

Guillaume Amat. La profondeur des roches, 2011–2018

Gallery 9. Image Transformation. The Power of Reworking

In one of his trips to Spain, Guillaume Amat returned to the Bardenas Reales, a desert near Zaragoza famous for its characteristic hills and clay soil. In this isolated place, he developed his series La profondeur des roches (The depth of the rocks) which resembles the Land art practices of the 1960s and 1970s. The image which depicts an optical illusion, shows the artists’ attitude towards the human impact on nature.

Jehun Jeon. The Last Miners, 2021

Gallery 10. Face to Face. Eye to Eye. Relational Power

Jehun Jeon’s portraits of miners captivate viewers because of the realism and rawness with which they are depicted. The photographer, and former miner himself, featured his former peers showing the harsh conditions of their almost unknown job. The men are covered in dust and their expressions are remarkable due to Jeon’s exceptional use of black and white.

Hope you enjoyed the article and if you want to discover more about emerging photography. Visit our website for more information and make sure you follow us on Medium!

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Text by:

Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects

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