Søren Behncke, "Sorry No Image Available", 2012. Image illustrating text by curator Francesco Stocchi in the series of correspondences on the Bienal de São Paulo website.

The 34th edition of the Bienal de São Paulo has been officially postponed and should take place between September 4 and December 5, 2021. The decision, unanimously approved by the institution's board, is a direct consequence of the new coronavirus pandemic. In March, sample it had already been postponed for a month, but the uncertainties surrounding the return to a regular routine ended up leading to a safer rescheduling. According to the president of the Foundation, José Olympio da Veiga Pereira, it would be necessary to start the assembly work soon, which would put many people at risk. In addition, the enormous paralysis in national and international tourism discourages the realization of an event of such magnitude.

This postponement also required other adaptation measures, such as changing the general calendar of the show, which officially takes place again in odd-numbered years, as it did from its opening until 1991, and the extension of the mandate of the current board, which was extended until December 2021. A similar initiative had already been taken in May by the Venice Biennale.

The guiding concept of the Bienal, entitled “It's dark, but I sing” remains the same. The exhibition will be structured around some thematic lines that intertwine, such as the notions of resistance, circulation, opacity and enclosure. Issues that, when viewed from our current situation, acquire new and complementary meanings that, according to the curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, should be incorporated into the project for the 34th Bienal. “There are aspects that were already present in the works, that pointed in these directions, but that have become more evident now”, he explains. “Insisting on what was planned would be a mistake, we have to be open,” he added. Although the definitive list of artists is practically ready, it is only expected to be released in its definitive version in March or April 2021, giving the curators extra time for reflection and for possible changes.

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to hold the events scheduled to take place throughout the year. According to the original calendar, three exhibitions and three performances would be organized throughout the year, but it was only possible to carry out the Ximena Garrido-Lecca, inaugurated in February, and the performance of Neo Muyanga. In order to keep the discussion around the show and exchanges active with a broad circuit, the Bienal plans to make use of virtual tools, continue publishing curatorial correspondence (which has been published on the website) and promote a series of online meetings involving artists, scholars and curators. “Our objective is to work the exhibition as if it were an open essay, shared with the public”, explains Visconti.

The launch of a digital publication is also planned, a kind of artist's book that will bring together a series of commissioned works. Another proposal, to be evaluated according to the evolution of the epidemic scenario, is to hold a small collective exhibition this year, reopening the Pavilion to the public, thus replacing canceled events and strengthening one of the project's ambitions: to create a Bienal that extends over time. and in space, allowing the public to experience the same artistic production in different contexts and moments. Regarding the wide network of partnerships that the Bienal had created for the realization of about 25 exhibitions parallel to the main event, Visconti explains that the cases will be worked individually, evaluating the circumstances of each individual project.

From a budgetary point of view, José Olympio says that the pandemic has affected the Bienal's accounts, but not in an insurmountable way, as the institution has more than 20 stable partners and has been expanding its support network. According to him, the main obstacle, until now, was the impossibility of renting the space in the Pavilion, which accounts for an important part of the revenue.

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