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São Paulo, Brazil
25 September - 12 December 2010
Aprox. 160 participants
[There is always a cup of sea to sail in]
The 29th São Paulo Biennial is being curated by Moacir dos Anjos and Agnaldo Farias and a team of guest curators from various backgrounds: Fernando Alvim, Rina Carvajal, Yuko Hasegawa, Sarat Maharaj, and Chus Martinez.
The title "There is always a cup of sea to sail in" was inspired by a line by the poet Jorge de Lima (1895 - 1953) in his work Invenção de Orfeu (1952).
Based on an interview of Universes in Universe with Moacir dos Anjos and Agnaldo Farias in January 2010, follow-up email correspondence, and press releases of the organizer, we summarize here some of the most important aspects:
No more national presentations
The national presentations, a typical characteristic of the São Paulo Biennial until 2004, are definitely abolished. Although already eliminated in 2006 under the direction of Lisette Lagnado, with this edition this concept is categorically discarded.
Teamwork of curators
Anchored in the general ideas of the chief curators, the guest curators work together with them on a common concept, incorporating perspectives of different parts of the world, but there will be no circumscribed responsibilities for designated exhibition areas or any separate list of artists.
More intensive contacts to Latin America
Moacir dos Anjos and Agnaldo Farias emphasized the importance of intensifying the contacts with Latin America as well as with Africa. Brazil has been looking to Europe and North America for too long, it is high time to intensify the dialogue with Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, and other countries. The São Paulo Biennial has always been a center for South America, attracting many visitors from the neighboring countries. Thus much more of their artistic production should be featured in the Biennial.
Instead of the "historical rooms" that were important in a time when there were very few monographic or overview exhibitions coming to Brazilian museums, there will be "several key works from Brazilian, Argentinean, Chilean, Colombian, Uruguayan, or Venezuelan artists, brought together with the intention of highlighting correspondences and summarizing how political issues traverse the continent."
Well-known artists seen differently
Dos Anjos and Farias face a double challenge and responsibility: They want to make a Biennial that is not only meaningful for the Brazilian audience, but also interesting for an international audience and relevant for the Biennial discussion as well.
They believe that even if the invited artists include some well known in Europe or in the US, it does make sense to bring them to show their work in São Paulo. First of all, to show Brazilians what is going on abroad, but at the same time to present them from a perspective from Brazil, a country that is assuming an increasingly important role in the international scene, not only in terms of culture, but also in political and economical fields. Making this connection between the production of well-known artists and the production of art from South America, Africa, and Asia can allow their work to be seen differently, adding another layer of meaning to it.
There is Always a Cup of Sea to Sail in
The concept of this year's São Paulo Biennial is based on the notion that it is impossible to separate art from politics. Art, through ways of its own, is "capable of blocking the sensorial coordinates through which we understand and inhabit the world by bringing into it themes and attitudes that did not previously fit in, thus making it different and wider."
In this sense the title "There is Always a Cup of Sea to Sail in" epitomizes the curators' intentions, asserting the utopian dimension of art. According to them: "It is in the 'cup of sea' – or in this near infinite in which artists insist on producing their works – where in fact lies the power to move forward, despite everything else." As the author of the poem Jorge de Lima continues, "the power to sail on even without ships / even without waves and sand."
Dos Anjos and Farias look at art as a field of knowledge that can teach us about something in the world that cannot be talked about in any other way, changing the way we see the world. They are aware that the topic Art & Politics is not a novelty, not even in Brazil.
But, as they pointed out, they are particularly interested in recovering the aspect of experimentation as a political factor. And beside the activist, conceptual approaches there will be works of manifest tangibility and poetical materiality. The curators confessed that they are always keen on inserting some sort of literary references. The art sector has developed a language of its own that appears very hermetic to people who do not belong to it, and beyond that, the concepts are often applied mechanically. "We therefore believe in the poetical word as an important key for perception."
Terreiros: 6 conceptual groupings
(From a press release)
The exhibition will unfold six issues relating to political thought and action through art within a unique and integrated curatorial space. Each of the issues that order conceptual groupings in space will have an ambient art project to be developed for activation and public use within a program of corresponding events. These projects can occupy a maximum area of 120 m2 and are denominated terreiros, spaces that refer to the squares, terraces, temples, yards, open-air or enclosed areas, where throughout Brazil people dance, fight, play music and games, cry, talk, or ritualize the country’s hybrid religiousness.
In addition to serving as places for rest and reflection before continuing through the Biennial, they will be used for a variety of activities, such as speeches, film and video screenings, performances, and readings.
The discussions that guide, and therefore denominate, the conceptual surroundings of each of these terreiros, are:
- The skin of the invisible
- Said, unsaid, forbidden
- I am the street
- Remembrance and oblivion
- Far away, right here
- The other, the same
The curatorial project is not exhausted in the presentation of an articulated set of works of art, even though they are clearly its core and purpose. The 29th São Paulo Biennial is already expanding into different areas through its educational program, discursive activities, art residencies, and website. It proposes to be a multi-faceted project in which art is a means to get to know and change the world in a unique manner.
© Interview, summary of information, translation:
Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt