The 13th Mercosul Biennial reflects the theme Trauma, Dream and Escape, narrative trigger of the first face-to-face edition in four years. The curatorship is signed by Marcello Dantas, along with the assistant curators, Carollina Lauriano, Laura Cattani, Munir Klamt and Tarsila Riso. The presidency is by Carmen Ferrão, allied to the curatorial proposal of making an inclusive and disruptive exhibition. The businesswoman, excited by the result of the show, is betting on an audience of 800 visitors.
One of the utopian dimensions of any curator is to put all his delusions on stage. Marcello Dantas, an interdisciplinary creator, used to piloting large international projects, believes that it was a huge effort to commission more than 60 works, among the 100 presented by artists from 23 countries. “The concept was to work with inclusive, participatory projects in the face of the time we have just lived with the pandemic.” He talks about the idea of living together again and feeling the beat of it, which would produce a feeling of togetherness common to all people, regardless of ethnic origins, gender, culture. “Finally, that we could think again about something that cannot be said, that which we do not say and that is stuck inside us.”
This edition had to overcome the loss of Usina do Gasómetro, as a result of a bureaucratic process that prevented the renovation of the building from being completed on time. On the other hand, the Bienal gained space at the Instituto Caldeira, a multipurpose venue located in the old Renner factory, completely renovated, adding up to a useful area of 22 square meters.
With the enigmatic title Trance, the experimental exposure high-tech takes part in this newest space in the city, introduces the visitor to current media art, with works made with complex virtual tools, technological language, experimental freedom and a lot of playfulness. The curatorship is by two young artists, Laura Cattani and Munir Klamt. For the first time the Bienal creates an open call notice, brings together almost 900 projects, of which only 19 are chosen by the general curator and his assistants, without any of them knowing the author's name. What the winning works have in common is the technological language, current or ancestral, as defined by the curator Laura Cattani.
The artists design their works, but to ensure their execution and functioning, the Bienal partnered with Tecnopuc, from PUC in Rio Grande do Sul, where some of the pieces were performed.
In this exhibition, the questions multiply in the face of a technology that is still little known to the general public. Surprised, some people try to guess what the “gadget” set up by the youngest artists in this show, Luis Enrique Zela-Koort and Genietta Varsi, who form the duo Sphincter, is all about. The installation is titled Cousin organ: Condenser of Cuerpos and is inspired by pre-modern cosmovisions, it proposes new futures to the public from a robotic sphincter composed of a boiler, water pump, a cooler and a spark generator. Changing into giblets, the facility refers to a digestive sphincter, which collects an organic compound and distills the putrefaction. The project alludes to the scientific experiment of Stanley Miller and Harold Urey on the hypothesis that the precursor matter of life could have formed spontaneously.
Among the works of this segment, which bring conceptual complexity, the Mycorrhizal Insurrection, by the duo Cesar & Lois (Cesar Baio and Lucy HG Solomon), which establishes a channel of communication with the public proposing a reflection on the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch characterized by the impact of man on Earth. Cattani explains that the installation is made up of a controlled environment in which artificial intelligence, live mycelia (mushrooms) and digital networks react to the messages sent by the participants “In addition to receiving the answers on their smartphone, they can view on the screens arranged around the data on the activities of the mycelia and to intervene in the characteristics of the environment, which oscillate as this communication is established.”
There are works with an experimental playful approach, such as the installation by Leandra Espírito Santo on the relationship between the body and the machine, fragmentation of the body in virtual environments. Molds of dismembered parts of different bodies slide on mechanical rails. Through the monocular vision of a camera, for a brief moment, the amputated parts of different bodies come together and become a perfect body. Cattani sees in this work an allusion to the idea of the project Vitruvian, by Leonardo Da Vinci that presents the ideal human body.
Away from Instituto Caldeira, right in the center of the city, Santander Cultural exemplifies the idea of beat contained in the biennial concept, with the installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Once again, the Mexican-Canadian artist challenges points of tension between architecture and space. the installation Press Topology it takes up the entire ground floor of Santander and captures, using sensors, the pulse of visitors, who visualize it in the repetitive sequence of three thousand lights that shine individually. The result is a shower of brilliance, infectious kinetic and visual experiences.
The 13th edition takes place at a time of urban transformation on the banks of the Guaíba River, with the restoration of the Cais do Porto, now with bars, restaurants and living spaces. The old warehouses are still there, but only number 6, with entry through the Embarcadero Pier, houses works from the Bienal, some of which are more superficial and others are denser.
In the political moment in which we live, Ar, installation by José Bento, provokes immediate empathy with the public, due to its critical content. The artist creates a forest with 36 pieces of wood, carved in the shape of hospital oxygen cylinders, similar to those that were missing during the worst moment of Covid-19, causing the death of hundreds of people. The pieces were worked with different species of wood that represent four Brazilian biomes: the Amazon, the Atlantic, the Cerrado and the Caatinga.
Drugs and their consequences have always provoked the imagination of artists, at all times. under the title Placebo, Raphael Escobar invents a home drug production scenario. On top of a steel table, the young artist spreads 20 pills pressed in pink and lilac colors, which also reflect an orange, made with coffee and sugar. In the background, a video shows the production of legal and illegal drugs, while subtitles explain the stages of coffee production. Everything seems nonsense, but the artist's intention is precisely to confuse the spectator about the limits between the two substances.
Politics and activism also cross this issue. Marilla Dardot, with Zero Tolerance Silver Clouds, installation made with chain links filled with metallic polyester fiber balloons that float in space, connects American migration policies to the work Silver Clouds (1966) by Andy Warhol. The artist reports to immigration law Zero tolerance, which in 2018 separated XNUMX children from their families by keeping them locked in a wire fence at a detention center in Texas. The silver blankets used by the children were made from the same material used by Wahrol in his work.
Some artists attract the public's attention, even with an intimate work. Marina Abramović presents the video Seven Deaths of Maria Callas (2021). The performer creates an immersive cinematic experience driven by the lyrical singer Maria Calas (1923-1977). For each of the seven deaths, Abramović plays an original solo by Maria Callas recomposing the arias' tragic endings. Instead of being strangled by Othello, Abramovic's Desdemona is strangled by a snake. The ritualized suicide of Madame Butterfly is replaced by the artist shedding her protective suit, amidst a landscape of chemical devastation.
There are motivations that enrich the speech, as evidenced by the English artist Tino Sehgal, who already in August engaged virtually in the 13th Bienal, participating in the third meeting of the seminar Contact Zones. The work, This Element, is a sum of his experiences and, to carry it out, he incorporated samples of pop music and vibrational tones that, according to the artist, are related to the frequencies of the chakras. He still uses fragments of the German band Kraftwerk and the American rapper Missy Elliot. Sehgal believes that the act of singing doesn't just connect the body and mind, "much more than that, it shows connection with ourselves and those around us." Every two hours, the “stage” of the This Element It brings people together to do something collectively.
The impact of the imaginary, through the activation of the dream, dreams and delusions, stimulated the Catalan artist Pedro Reyes to create hypnopedia, a kind of encyclopedia of dreams. The digital archive is a semantic network of authors, in this case the public was invited to produce small records of oneiric memories, now displayed in a Zen room at Instituto Ling, with the spectators lying down.
The ten venues that house the 13th Bienal throughout the city, more than exhibition points, are platforms where people re-encounter art and friends.
13th Mercosur Biennial
September 15th to November 20th, 2022
Visit to multiple spaces by appointment (Click here)