Searching for Utopia at the Cheongju Craft Biennale, Korea

Is it possible to represent ideas of utopia through craft and dissolve boundaries between formal exhibitions and impact the everyday reality of the city? That’s the mission and question posed by Artistic Director Jae-young Ahn in this year’s iteration of the 2019 Cheongju Craft Biennale.

Image courtesy of the Cheongju Craft Biennale

Ahn is attempting to blur the edges of the biennale spaces and bring craft into the city and to the attention of local residents. The title, Dreaming the Crafts of the Future, Mongyudowon Unfolds, puts forward the challenge of a ‘new creative vision for craft that combines time, spirit, and technology’.

This is a vision full of optimism intended to bring ‘joy’ to what Ahn calls the ‘desolate reality of contemporary society.’ The idyllic landscapes of Mongyudowon have a unique resonance to Korean audiences, but they also link to broader global notions of a transcendence from everyday mundanity.

Image courtesy of the Cheongju Craft Biennale

With the Biennale opening this week we are keen to see if this theme will be translated through futuristic material technologies or whether works will embody a sense of nostalgia, harking back to simple, uncomplicated forms and techniques. There could well be tension between these two opposing interpretations and a diverse reflection of the values of craft globally.

Dr Pippa Dickson, Director of Asialink Arts, will be attending Cheongju for the second time as an international advisor to build stronger ties between Australia and Korea. This year, to build the agency of the Australian arts sector Pippa has included Laura Clauscen, General Manager of Broached Commissions and artist/craftsperson Michael Gittings through the generous assistance of the Australia Korea Foundation.

The purpose of the visit is knowledge sharing, exposure to new ideas, and the continued development of strong cultural ties. Pippa, Laura and Michael will be looking for ongoing collaborations and partnerships through people to people connections. Asialink Arts is seeking to work with the Cheongju Craft Biennale following the event to develop a new craft exchange.

Image courtesy of the Cheongju Craft Biennale

The 2019 Cheongju Craft Biennale - now in its 11th edition - runs between 8 October – 17 November and will showcase over 1,000 items created by 160 different teams and 210 artists from 17 countries. Cheongju is further solidifying its status as the world's first craft biennale.


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Dr Pippa Dickson - Director, Asialink Arts