Flávio de Carvalho, 'Experience n. 3', 1956 Photograph, b/w Source: Fundo Flávio de Carvalho/CEDAE-UNICAMP, Campinas © The Heirs of Flávio de Carvalho
“The fish in the sea knows nothing of the nuptial flight of the bee, nor of the ideas of a ship's captain, but it may one day come into contact with the bones of a homo sapiens and ponder the bones.
A collection of bones is therefore more important to an observer than the bones of the observer himself. Light on the past is the only kind of light capable of illuminating the present, and of helping to melt the veil of blindness; the past collected in a museum is more suggestive than the turmoil of a generation, and is eminently capable of contributing to the unfolding of the individual”.

 

The above excerpt is part of the book the bones of the world published in 1936, therefore more than 80 years ago, and written by Flávio de Carvalho, after six months traveling in Europe, between 1934 and 1935. Exp. 1: The Bones of the World is precisely the title of the activity that kicks off the 11th Berlin Biennale, this Friday, September 6th, curated by María Berríos, Renata Cervetto, Lisette Lagnado and Agustín Pérez Rubio.

The transgressive architect and artist Flávio de Carvalho (1899 – 1973), who in 1956 wore skirts in São Paulo, was one of those who inspired the winning project for the Berlin Biennale last year, and his proposals now appear as a reference for the curatorial process of the mostly Latin American team, with the exception of the Spanish Rubio.

“It looks like an exhibition, but it's not. It is just a public opening of the curatorial process as an experience. We couldn't find a word to translate "experience". In German, neither “erfahrung”, nor “erlebnis”, nor “experiment” was able to satisfy the group and the biennial team”, wrote Lagnado by email, answering two questions about the exhibition.

Experience is a term used by Carvalho in several of his actions considered today as precursors of performance, such as Experience no. two, in 1931, when he crossed a procession wearing a hat, in downtown São Paulo, to the fury of Catholic religious. In the same year, he published a book reporting the case and making a long analysis of its implications with references in psychoanalysis.

The Berlin Biennale begins now occupying the ExRotaprint, a building in a peripheral neighborhood with a high population of immigrants in Berlin, chosen by the curators to start a process of experiences, encounters and meetings with artists in residence.

Lagnado observes the moment of writing of The Bones of the World (available online at https://digital.bbm.usp.br/handle/bbm/2769), in 1934, “a paradigmatic year for the rise of nationalism” in line with the current situation: “We are arriving now, thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with our references of home in our luggage.”

According to the curator, the space works as a laboratory, since it has no museum conditions. THE exp.1, in fact, will not even have works themselves, “but traces of a collection of ideas that have matured in the last six months during internal conversations”.

The proposal somewhat reflects another initiative by Flávio de Carvalho, the Clube dos Artistas Modernos – CAM, created in 1932, which, as Lagnado points out, “promoted paradigmatic presentations of Osório César, such as the month of children and the mad, the conference of Mário Pedrosa about Käthe Kollwitz, not to mention the Theater of Experience that ended up closing the space”.

Biennials have in fact extended in time beyond the exhibition, and the how to live together, led by Lagnado, at the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, in 2006, began earlier with an extensive program of seminars. The proposal is now much more radical. The space will be open to the public from Thursday to Saturday, at defined times, when the curators will be there working, welcoming anyone who wants to go, with a schedule for neighboring schools. “It is important to make it clear that these experiences are ours and not a replica of Flávio's journey”, defends the curator.

Another innovation of the Berlin Biennale is to avoid secrecy around the participants in the show. The invitation of exp.1 already announces contributions from around 30 participants, including Flávio de Carvalho himself, in addition to Teatro da Vertigem and the artist Virgínia de Medeiros, both also from Brazil, Cecília Vicuña, from Chile, and Mapa Teatro, from Colombia.

“Collectives, artists, educators, speakers, choreographers, poets, everyone are also members of the 11th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. There is no separation between exhibition and public program, or between exhibition and educational”, wrote Lagnado.

 

 

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