Christian Boltanski, "Soy de... / I am from", 2019. Work that reproduces stories of immigrants.

ARTE!Brasileiros — Now that BIENALSUR is already completing its second edition, can you explain better how this project started?

Diana Wechsler- BIENALSUR emerged in 2015, from a series of dialogues within a public university, UNTREF (Universidad Nacional Tres de Febrero) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a dialogue between different disciplines, the sociology of international relations and the study of the sociology of culture and the History of Art. Dialogues that were born from the beginning between Aníbal Jozami, rector of UNTREF, and myself.

From the beginning, we had a critical look at the way in which the [socio-economic-cultural] exchange takes place between those countries that usually define themselves as “centers” and those others that, within the established scheme of sharing the world, recognize themselves as “periphery”.

Focusing on the field of art and culture offers a privileged platform to observe the way in which these exchanges are produced and, in addition, certainly fertile ground for thinking and suggesting revisions. Thus, after studying circuits pre-established by international biennials since the end of the XNUMXth century, the way of establishing the curatorship, determining themes, “identity marks of the biennial format”, we thought of trying to deconstruct them and rehearse others, keeping the name of biennial, understanding that it is a form of easy identification.

What, strictly speaking, is the difference between this platform and other Bienals?

BIENALSUR does not focus on a city. It chooses to work simultaneously and in harmony with several cities in different countries and continents. In a way, this dispersion seeks to build a new cartography, a global territory that overcomes borders without leaving aside the identities of each one. Seeking to include diversity and different voices.

Another differential is the fact that we do not work with a single curator, but with a council of international collaborators, a way to deactivate a certain authoritarianism or a predetermined theme. We open-call, receive hundreds of projects from consecrated and unrecognized artists and, from there, we select and build converging centers. This year, from countless of these proposals, themes that presented synergy emerged.

We managed to get some cities to align themselves conceptually through, for example, the axis “Modes of Seeing” or “Memories and Oblivion”, others on the theme “Transits, Migrations and Exiles”.  The work of Brazilian artist Rosângela Rennó —  the installation Good Apples, Bad Apples, mounted on MUNTREF — like the one by Betsabé Romero, they form part of the “Memories and Forgetting” axis, but they also intersect with the issue of the “Monument / Anti-monument”. An artist proposes his project and is selected, from there we think about his work and see in which institution or city it can work best.

For example, the Colombian artist Iván Argote had proposed his “Atelier of Activism for Children”, an experience he had carried out in France. As a BIENALSUR, we asked if he would be interested in setting up the project in Benin, Africa, to be carried out with one of our partners, the Zinsou Foundation, which was interested because it works with very community-oriented projects. It was a success and gave powerful and moving results.

Another similar case was that of the artist Paola Monzillo, from Uruguay, who entered Marrakesh through a residency and an exhibition later, in the MACCAL Annual Program, which ended up incorporating her work in the collection.

It is a way, in practice, to contribute to the cultural integration of the countries that participate in the platform, in the network that is being built. It goes beyond artistic work, since as a cultural project that was born in the South, it becomes an “operator” (from the singular space of culture) of the international reality. Choices and exchanges are not governed by the amount of public or the amount of exhibitions that took place at the place, but rather, in most cases, by their symbolic value or their historical significance. For example, the exhibition that took place in Potosí, Bolivia, which is not a city that is part of the traditional circuit of contemporary art, was added, in this edition, to the exhibition at Centro Paco Urondo in Buenos Aires, both working on the concept of “frictions”, whether political, aesthetic or identity.

Thus, placing an exhibition at the MAXXII in Rome, clearly identified as a center of contemporary art, at the MUNTREF in Buenos Aires or on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, as we have already done, we believe that we are building new logics of production and consumption of symbolic and cultural goods.

AB – Do you understand that they are reaching their goals, in relation to the contribution they want to bring to the contemporary art system?

DW – Yes, BIENALSUR works in dialogue, in a network and associatively. It establishes systems of collaboration between artists, curators, and institutions, and these relationships have indeed grown, despite enormous budget difficulties from the first edition to this one.

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