With 121 artists and more than a thousand works occupying an area of ​​30 thousand square meters, the 35th São Paulo Biennial Over the next few months, it will focus the attention of the country's arts circuit. This magnetizing power occurs through the attraction of thousands of visitors to the Pavilion, but above all through the enormous capillarity of this process, capable of transforming the central issues discussed in the exhibition into central elements of the debate, production and dissemination of thought about art. Under the topic choreographies of the impossible, the exhibition brings together a record number of non-white artists, whose poetics challenge a Eurocentric and linear notion of history, rescue traditions, and shed light on invisible issues and communities. Community strategies, the combination of different languages ​​and techniques and a permanent seduction of the senses predominate with great intensity.

The opening of the 35th São Paulo Biennale is Ibrahim Mahama, an artist from Ghana who was already featured at the Venice Biennale, with a very large installation made up of elements such as a train track, a series of ceramic vases that punctuate the space and a large brick grandstand, which should host a series of actions linked to the event's public program, which features an extensive program of performances, debates and conversations. (available at 35.bienal.org.br/agenda).

The initial feeling of spaciousness continues throughout practically the entire exhibition, thanks to the exhibition designed by the Vão office, which proposed the partial closure of the openings that connect the side of the second floor to the central bay, creating freer spaces for the various exhibition areas. and enabling a break with the already consolidated idea that the third floor would function almost naturally as a more museum space within the Biennale.

Transdisciplinarity, in terms of concept and language, is one of the hallmarks of this edition. The hermeticism foreshadowed in the first curatorial texts gave way to a light and fluid set, in which poetic diversity and the collectivist spirit seem to predominate. The recurrence of work carried out in partnership and the large number of collectives, artistic and political, draw attention. Movements such as the Ayllu collective, the Ocupação 9 de Julho kitchen (which takes over the restaurant), Frente 3 de Fevereiro, Giap (Group of Research in art and politics) or even the Zumví Afro Archive, just to name a few, have a strong presence in the exhibition. It is worth remembering that the curation itself responds to this aggregating principle, being signed jointly by Diane Lima, Grada Kilomba and Manuel Borja-Villel, in a careful balance between genres, origins and training.


Some elements seem to punctuate the entire 35th São Paulo Biennial, revealing affinities between the most different authors. The circular or serpentine shape, which refers to the idea of ​​spiraling time and criticism of Western modernist thought and the linear concept of progress – derived from the thought of Leda Maria Martins –, is recurrent in the exhibition. Understanding history as an open field of possibilities is a common strategy of guests at the 35th São Paulo Biennial and their concept of spiral time. There are many works that illustrate this relationship, such as A voice for Erauso. Epilogue to a trans time, by Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller. Or the powerful installation by Ayrson Heráclito and Tiganá Santana, which takes the visitor on an immersive and sensorial journey through the forest. The earth, amphorae, vases and bowls are also constant materials, signs of ancient cultures, of belonging to massacred traditions, but which remain standing, such as the works of Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Daniel Lie, M'Barek Bouhchichi, among others. .

The tone is not one of urgency, although it is past time to overcome the political, social and environmental issues addressed there. Nor does resignation prevail, but a certain wisdom in understanding the multiple intersecting times. The time of the horror of slavery and the wisdom of the inhabitants of the forest, the time of the drama of immigrants abandoned to their own devices and that of the victims of LGBTphobia, colonial brutality and psychological suffering. These are works that, most of the time, oscillate between “hope and despair”, as Carles Guerra summarizes in the presentation text by Filipino artist Geraldine Javier. Or that they have, in Diane Lima’s definition, “terrible beauty”.

Nous sommes ce qui vous ne voulez pas voi
“Nous sommes ce qui vous ne voulez pas voi”, 2023, M'barek Bouhchichi. Photo: Levi Fanan_Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

The idea of ​​choreography, present in the title of the exhibition, echoes throughout all floors of the Pavilion. There are many works that seem to float in space, expanding invisibly, like Lung of the mine: the air also floods, by Luana Vitra. Works like the Niño de Elche installation literally make the audience dance; Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz investigate the movement of the body and merge the space of the video and the physical space of the exhibition in a disconcerting way; Not to mention historical references like Katherine Dunham. But it is not just an important presence of works and artists linked to dance, movement and music, but the emphasis on works that are built on movement – ​​real or symbolic – in time and space. This is the work of Ana Pi and the Candomblé priest Taata Kwa Nkisi Mutá Imê: four bronze rods that move synchronously, like antennas, on a floor of traces, images and speeches stitched together from the experiences collected by the duo in a long journey that connects Africa, France, Brazil, in search of identities, memories and affections. “Accelerating emotions is the role of art”, says the artist.

Julien Creuzet, originally from Martinique and who will represent France at the next Venice Biennale, also makes dance a central element of his work. In partnership with some choreographers, including Ana Pi, he sets traditional African sculptures to dance to the rhythm of contemporary music such as hip hop. He thus opposes himself, mixing irony and a sharp look at stereotypes, to the argument defended by filmmakers Alain Resnais, Chris Marker and Ghislain Cloquet in Statues also die (1953), that idols would be corpses when they leave their environment of worship and protection and are transferred to museums, thus mobilizing a permanently renewable power of resistance.

playing lively
“Playing lively”, 2023, Tadáskía. Photo: Patricia Rousseaux

Kitlat Tahimik also dialogues with cinema – without using a camera or film. Its temporal narrative is made from objects. It confronts monsters and myths, modern and ancient, with acidity and provocation by showing Mickey Mouse, with a chainsaw in hand, about to castrate an ancestral mythological figure with a huge phallus, something like a fertility god, or reconstructs the Trojan horse in connection with state-of-the-art weaponry. Even a work that would apparently be just a kinetic exercise, a seductive experimentation with light and color, touches on deep wounds and proposes reviewing perverse logics of domination. In your installation pink-blue, Kapwani Kiwanga associates fluorescent lights used in two of the most terrible control environments in contemporary society: psychiatric institutions and prisons. While in the first, white lighting was supposed to calm aggressive instincts, in the second, the color blue was used to make it difficult to locate veins, thus making injecting drug consumption difficult. ✱

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