"Retirantes", by Pedro Zagatto | Photo: Isabella Matheus

Among works that portray parties and popular traditions, paintings that expose police violence, expressions of a growing feminism, everyday scenes and portraits of Brazilian environmental degradation, the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil 2020 opened the doors of its in-person exhibition. The show would start in August at Sesc Piracicaba, but it was postponed because of the pandemic, and now it follows in parallel with the digital programming until July 2021. Seeking to gather the ideas of Ailton krenak - with Ideas for postponing the end of the world – and Arthur Danto, the show takes the title Ideas for postponing the end of art and curated by Ana Avelar and Renata Felinto.

"I would say that Ideas for postponing the end of art it's actually expanding to 360 degrees our possibility of looking. Stop looking ahead, but pay attention to your peripheral vision, and if necessary, turn your body so you can see what's left behind”, says Felinto. The curator believes that the amount of different people in the exhibition already announces the intention to stretch the limits that categorize visual arts productions today. “The works point to discussions that cross numerous identities, but which tend to open up the possibilities of humanities that also need to be seen through art”, she explains.

With that in mind, perhaps it will be clear that rather than postponing the end of art, the debate is more about expanding our understanding of art and the narratives we include in this story. As Ana Avelar puts it: “In contemporary times, we no longer believe in its heyday, we believe that the arts develop throughout history, with their specificities and subjects. In other words, thinking about the end of art is no longer possible, but we can think about its transformation and the systems in which it operates, and we seek to offer insights into these narratives”.

But what do naïve artists have to do with it? Perhaps his narratives are precisely some that were invisible until then. To understand, it is worth going back a little in time. “Naïf is a term of French origin and suggests something natural and naive”, explains Margarete Regina Chiarella, culture and leisure agent at Sesc Piracicaba. “But visiting the Bienal, you will realize that there is nothing naive about it. This art is characterized by spontaneity and freedom for artists to express, how they feel, how they perceive the world without being bound by the rules of the academy or fads. They are unsubmissive, they work with their own rules.”

In order to minimize this invisibility, Sesc chose to focus on the artist, and in the 15ª Bienal, in addition to showing a plurality in naïve art, created spaces that simulate workshops and bring video reports of the creators themselves, telling the public their processes and their artistic pretensions, and allowing the biennial visitor to see it beyond a generalism, but as an artist. “So for us this is very important, because even though art criticism and curatorship are fundamental to organize an exhibition discourse, it is no longer permissible for us to despise the artist's speech”.

Much of this curatorial proposal is based on the ideas of theorists Ana Mae Barbosa and Lélia Coelho Frota. As Ana Candida Avelar explains, this edition of the Bienal Naïfs also seeks to honor women. Therefore, he starts from both theories as references in the curatorship and invites Carmela Pereira, Leda Catunda, Raquel Trindade and Sonia Gomes to dialogue with the exhibition. “Looking at their work makes us realize how they left the most diverse realities to be in the places where they are, it makes us notice that these and these other artists are following similar paths and have this space already opened both by initiatives such as Sesc and by figures like these artists”, says Ana Avelar.

Combined with the face-to-face exhibition, a series of digital initiatives have been and will be developed. Among the activities, there were workshops aimed at self-taught artists, so that they could learn to photograph their works – and thus access other exhibition spaces more easily – and to prepare portfolios – necessary for the selection of national and international exhibitions. This type of initiative aims at a larger action than the realization of an event. Therefore, the day with popular artists goes far beyond the period of the Bienal Naïfs and seeks to understand the event not as an end, but a path, which allows these people to amplify their voices and build new connections and opportunities.

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