Amalia Pica and Natascha Sadr Haghighian at the Guangju Biennale

KÖNIG GALERIE artists Amalia Pica and Natascha Sadr Haghighian will be taking part in the 11th edition of the Guangju Biennale, opening on 1 September in South Korea.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian will present her 2013 installation pssst Leopard 2A7+, a demilitarized farcical copy of the Leopard 2A7+ - a battle tank produced by German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, designed for pacification of uprisings and protests in urban areas. A Lego platform in the dimensions of the tank hosts a sonic investigation and growing audio archive accessible through sixty headphone sockets in place of the tank’s turret. Visitors can sit or lie on the platform and navigate through the various audio files by plugging into the selected channels, and submerge into audio documents, sonic atmospheres, and interpreted music scores, creating a plane of imagination to reflect about the conditions of increasing militarization of urban environments today.

In collaboration with writer and artistic researcher Ashkan Sepahvand (b. 1984, Tehran/Berlin), Natascha Sadr Haghighian has developed a commission for GB11 titled Carbon Theater. The project is conceived for the open-air auditorium in the park located behind the exhibition halls. Accessing this space requires leaving the exhibition hall through a one-way exit on the third floor of the building and walking through a forest path. This decision is irreversible, removing the visitor from the structured sensuous experience of the exhibition and instead offering a space of retreat, respite, and reflection in the world. A curtain hanging in the woods marks the entrance to the Carbon Theater and presents the viewer with symbols and illustrations that act as a legend for an accompanying “sonic pill” that can be downloaded as an mp3 file upon scanning an affixed QR code with one’s smart phone. 

Exploring this already existing space of the dormant amphitheater and the surrounding forest, visitors can join their walk with an aural investigation into the carbon cycle and the various bonds carbon makes that support life on Earth but also, when changed, alter the conditions for life altogether. The sonic pill introduces different interlocutors that address the material entanglement of contemporary society with carbon – from its role in the capitalist market to its generative function within the history of democracy, as well as the challenge climate change presents to social, political, and aesthetic organization within the future.

Amalia Pica's Joy in Paperwork (2015–16) is a series of approximately 1,000 drawings made on A4 paper using bureaucratic stamps that Pica has collected from various places in the world. The works on view in GB11 include new drawings incorporating stamps from Korea, which is where the woodblock printing press was invented in the thirteenth century, a piece of information that Pica came to discover upon her first visit to Gwangju in 2015. As a practice of inhabiting the abstraction of bureaucratic mechanisms and subverting it, Pica creates elaborate decorative drawings with these stamps. As the text of the stamps such as “paid,” “received,” or “copy” are repeatedly imprinted, their utility becomes abstracted, giving way to patterns or recognizable forms—emerging as flowers, volcanoes, or landscapes. 

In GB11, new drawings made by Pica onsite in Gwangju are shown alongside other drawings from the series, most of them shown for the first time. These drawings are then laboriously photocopied, filed, and displayed while the originals are archived. From the repetitive gesture of stamping, photocopying, archiving, and displaying emerges not only a defiant attitude, but also a resilience and joy that defy the very oppression of bureaucracy itself. Installed along the vast breadth of a continuous wall, the drawings are meant to overwhelm viewers while also pulling them in for closer inspection.

Pica is interested in things that get lost, that are overheard, forgotten, or miscommunicated. In her work, erasure and compensation happens both at the level of the historical anecdote, and at its mediation through art. Pica’s practice also often incorporates durational performance as well as participation, in which performers and/or visitors are invited to animate—even complete works that are otherwise static and open, such as Eavesdropper (2011), where visitors were asked to listen to glasses attached to a wall for hours at a time.

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