Part carnival parade, part demonstration and part funeral procession, SPRING was a 90-minute art procession featuring works for two hundred participants by artists from Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, the US, France, Germany, Hong Kong and South Korea to summon the emancipatory energies of the 1980 South Korean Spring.
The references of SPRING, however, went well beyond the city of Gwangju and May 1980, and evoked other popular uprisings such as the summer 2008 anti-beef protests in Seoul, May 1968 in Paris, France, and the 1881 Canboulay Riots in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It also encompassed the histories of carnivals and street processions as found in Brazil and the Caribbean, New Orleans, and Cape Town. A principal interest of SPRING was to refuse the constricted space of the exhibition gallery, and readapt the exhibition format into a space of active social participation. In this way the processional format was the arena through which this project sought to experiment with new modes of conducting an exhibition. SPRING also called to mind the idea of sudden motion and constant tension, both of which are at the core of popular street manifestations, from carnivals to demonstrations.
Throughout the month of August 2008 artists in SPRING assembled in Gwangju for interaction and production with local participants, building the models and displays that culminated in the mass public processional performance around the May 18 Democratic Square and Geumnamro – the very location where the 1980 Uprising took place. Begun at 8 o’clock in the evening, the procession ended in a fiery conflagration with works set afire and broken to pieces not unlike in ritual destructions common to carnivals and religious festivals, ominous in popular upheavals.
A 10-min. film, SPRING in Gwangju, named after Rainer Maria Fassbinder’s Germany in Autumn and featuring Gwangju Biennale founder Yongwoo Lee, was shot by Caecilia Tripp and presented on flat screens on each floor on the Gwangju Biennale Hall in replacement of a trailer that had prior announced both the performance and the upcoming film.