This year, the Busan Sea Art Festival embraces the flux, unknowability, and precarity within which we all find ourselves, and it does so through the sea. In considering the human— be it a viewer, an artist, or their artwork— and the non-human sea, as part of a ‘non-/human’ assemblage, a fluid network of beings, we begin to become porous to the forms of kinship and friction among ourselves and within our wider liquid ecologies.
Referring to the always hybrid assemblage of matters that constitutes watery embodiment, we might say that we have never been (only) human. This is not to forsake our inescapable humanness, but to suggest that the human is always also more-than-human. Our wateriness verifies this, both materially and conceptually.
Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of Water
In the spirit of Neimanis’ words, the sea and its deeper ecosystems encompass us all. It is a constantly changing landscape that creates and holds collective imagination, grief, joy, political histories, and temporal cycles. In the age of the climate crisis and geo-social upheaval, reviving the connections among our bodies and our lived environments, and to do so with curiosity and humility, is an act of playful resistance, rumination, and healing.
The Ilgwang beach and East Sea, our venue, is a site wherein many communities, both lived and imagined, have become intertwined with these watery histories. The Sea Art Festival 2021 invites you to step into our portal and become open to the many worlds that you inhabit.
How can we extend our consciousnesses in order to think beyond our individual selves in these times, and do so with joy? Here we evoke Jasbir K. Puar’s thinking from her essay “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”: “Assemblages do not privilege bodies as human, nor as residing within a human animal/nonhuman animal binary. Along with a de-exceptionalizing of human bodies, multiple forms of matter can be bodies—bodies of water, cities, institutions, and so on.”. Drawing
from this expansive theory, as well as Neimanis’ notion, our conception of assemblages within the Sea Art Festival 2021 considers the flows of water that create networks across all of our ‘bodies’— the sea with its many plant and animal bodies, Ilgwang beach and surrounding spaces in Gijang, global and local art currents, and our socio-political communities. We reject the simplified binary between the human and the non-human, and instead, encounter one another by co-dwelling in our gestational states.
An assemblage is essentially a multiplicity, neither a part nor a whole, produced by the interrelations and exchanges among its elements. In attempting to reveal the underlying patterns that hold us—human societies and the non-human marine world— together, the Sea Art Festival 2021 creates a non-/human assemblage. A mutating, evolving ecology, constantly renewing as human and non-human entities morph, such an assemblage asks us to question how and why exist in relation to one another rather than as discrete subjects. We thus embrace the frictions of various differences. Water runs across our collective bodies— a force that compels our politics, our organic processes, our economies, our existences. The very act of consuming and expelling water is an infinitely reproductive act that ties all beings. In the Sea Art Festival 2021, we foreground this intimacy, to engage in a process of ‘becoming’ beyond merely one’s self, parsing the indeterminate flows that entwine us all.