Jaider Esbell, "Entities". Photo: Indiara Duarte / Sesc SP
Thiago de Paula Souza, Diane Lima and Beatriz Lemos, the triennial's curators. Photo: Indiara Duarte

In the midst of a pandemic and political crisis context, what are the curatorial and expository possibilities? This was one of the questions that guided months of work by the river is a serpent, third edition of Frestas – Arts Triennale. Organized by Sesc São Paulo, based at the Sorocaba unit, it is curated by Beatriz Lemos, Diane Lima and Thiago de Paula Souza.

The invitation to the trio came before the pandemic, enabling the first activities in the construction of the project. On a trip through Brazil, the curators visited locations in the North and Northeast together: “The most important thing for us was that from this body in movement and in conflict with other territories, we could create a curatorial body”, says Beatriz. It was in this movement that the river is a serpent began to take shape, not as a theme - which would be insufficient for the moment lived -, but as a cosmovision that gathers the lessons learned from its process and that aims to discuss contemporary movements, their geographies and colonial structures.

But how does Frestas flow into Sorocaba? Based on a sequence of listening meetings with artists, producers, managers and local educators, the team sought to understand the needs of the region and made education one of the central pillars of curatorial thinking. “It has always been a great concern not to be like a spaceship that lands in the city 'bringing knowledge' and then leaving”, explains Renata Sampaio, coordinator of the educational program. If the general context seemed so vertical, the proposal here was to change this dynamic a little. “We didn't want to reproduce this colonial vision of someone who just wants to 'teach' and not build together”, she adds.

With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire art world saw the need to rethink its schedules. With the triennial it was no different. The exhibition was postponed several times until it opened to the public on August 21, 2021. For the curators, this decision provokes a provocation about their professional functions, remembering that “perhaps the curatorial practice is not limited to an exhibition organization”, explains Thiago de Paula.

With that in mind, they changed the direction of the project and decided to focus even more on educational practices. If “the river is a snake because it hides and camouflages itself between the unpredictable and the mystery, it creates strategies for its own movement”, as the curatorial text summarizes, it is with a focus on the course and curves of this river – and on the dialogues that these promote – that Frestas decides to build itself. “This image has helped us to think about this cosmovision and has enabled us to find strategies and possibilities to face what it is like to curate an exhibition of contemporary art at this moment that Brazil is experiencing”, explains Diane Lima.

the tributaries

It was in this context that the idea of ​​the Study Program took shape. Fifteen artists whose lives and practices are directly connected to colonial violence were invited to participate in a series of virtual meetings with the triennial's curatorial, production and educational teams. “We had intense meetings discussing projects, poetics, practices and life”, says Thiago. In this space, the artists were able to develop their own artistic projects, which will form part of the exhibition.

Based on the experiences and ideas of Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Davi de Jesus do Nascimento, Denilson Baniwa, Denise Alves-Rodrigues, Ella Vieira, Gê Viana, Iagor Peres, Jonas Van Holanda, Juliana dos Santos, Laís Machado, Luana Vitra, Pedro Victor Brandão, Rebeca Carapiá, Sallisa Rosa and Ventura Profana, the meetings brought focus to several of the discussions that permeated curatorial thinking. As a result, not only artists left video calls with new provocations, but curators could rethink the exhibition possibilities.

Horizontal, color photo. In a video link of Frestas' educational program, three windows. On the upper left, Renata Sampaio, educational coordinator for O RIO IS A SERPENTE, on the upper right, Ingra Maciel, on the lower screen, Juliana dos Santos.
Law 11.645, which provides for the teaching of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous history and culture, was discussed in the Training Program, with Ingra Maciel (right), Juliana dos Santos (below) and mediation by Renata Sampaio (left). Photo: reproduction

It was also in this direction that The river is a snake: topics for difference and social justice, an online teacher training program, held in weekly meetings between the months of October and November 2020. “The approval was so great that the training became an official course of the municipality, providing career progression to the participating teachers”, says Renata Sampaio , who led the program.

At each meeting, one or more speakers joined the group to discuss strategies for working in the classroom. “The idea was not to show the teacher how to teach, but to sensitize him on matters that we think are of paramount importance, so that the debate continues, horizontally, in the school”, explains Renata. “The educational aspect of this edition of Frestas is working from non-hegemonic perspectives, agents and concepts, seeking to build relationships with other areas of knowledge”, she adds.

Online, however, expanded Frestas' geographic boundaries. In the Training Program, it enabled the participation of educators and guests from different places in Brazil and the availability of this material online so that more people were impacted. In general terms, it enabled an even more intense exchange with the international scenario, based on the partnership established with the collective Ayllu, an artistic-political action and collaborative research group formed by migrants, racialized people and dissidents of gender and sexuality of former -Spanish colonies, based in Madrid.

Seeking a critical space for collective thinking and creation, Ayllu developed the Program Oriented to Subaltern Practices (POPS), which in this edition brought together around 40 people from eight Latin American countries to question rationalism, scientism and the false objectivity of thought. eurocentric. The discussions generated a fanzine that will be part of the show the river is a serpent and added another discussion to the project, bringing the debate to migratory issues.

The participation of people from 25 of the 27 federative units in Brazil in the expography course also sets the tone for this expansion of Frestas. Conducted by Tiago Guimarães, exhibition architect for the triennial itself, the course aimed to help more people have access to information about the area. Anti-analysis, a mentoring project by Pêdra Costa, served 45 artists from all over Brazil when it took place in the online environment, which would not have been possible with a face-to-face realization in Sorocaba, as they had initially thought.

Arriving at the mouth of the river

If the initial objective of the river is a serpent was to take the discussions of the Brazilian and world contemporary art circuit to Sorocaba, finding less violent ways, it seems that the educational practices not only created these points of dialogue with the city, through the Training Program, but proposed discussions at other points of the circuit. Discussions that come to flow in Sorocaba in the face-to-face and virtual exhibition.

Along this river, not only artists and educators were able to rethink their processes and reflect on the absences and possibilities around them, but also the Triennale team and Sesc itself. “I hope that the institution reviews itself in some practices, because it is still very white and this is something that needs to be thought about”, points out Thiago. The focus on the process, education as the main pillar of the project and the joint construction of knowledge seem to have been important tools for this, because, as Renata Sampaio concludes: “The path of this river was made in the encounters, and encounter is something by hand. double, everyone leaves modified after him”.

Complete list of artists from the 3rd Triennale 

The final exhibition features works by 53 artists and collectives of different nationalities, including the 15 participants of the Study Program, Pêdra Costa and the collective Ayllu. Check out the complete list:

Aimee Zito Lema (Netherlands)
Ana Pi and Maria Fernanda Novo (Brazil)
Antonio Tarsis (Brazil)
Bronwyn Katz (South Africa)
Carmézia (Brazil)
Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro (Brazil)
Collective Occupation (Brazil)
Ayllu Collective
Dalton Paula (Brazil)
Davi de Jesus do Nascimento (Brazil)
Davi Pontes and Wallace Ferreira (Brazil)
Denilson Baniwa (Brazil)
Denise Alves-Rodrigues (Brazil)
Diego Arauja (Brazil)
Ella Vieira (Brazil)
Elvira Espejo (Bolivia)
Engel Leonardo (Dominican Republic)
Fernando Palma Rodriguez (Mexico)
Ge Viana (Brazil)
Warrior of Divine Love (Switzerland)
Haseeb Ahmed (United States)
Iagor Peres (Brazil)
Ivan Henriques (Brazil)
Jaider Esbell (Brazil)
Johanna Unzueta (Chile)
Jonas van Holanda (Brazil)
Jota Mombasa (Brazil)
Juliana dos Santos (Brazil)
Julien Creuzet (France)
Lais Machado (Brazil)
Laura Lima (Brazil)
Lia Garcia (La Novia Sirena) (Mexico)
Luana Vitra (Brazil)
Madalena dos Santos Reinbolt (Brazil)
Marepe (Brazil)
Mario Lopes (Brazil)
Muse Michelle Mattiuzzi (Brazil)
Negalê Jones (Brazil)
Noara Quintana (Brazil)
Nohemi Pérez (Colombia)
Paulo Nazareth (Brazil)
Pêdra Costa (Brazil)
Pedro Victor Brandao (Brazil)
Rebeca Carapiá (Brazil)
Renata Lucas (Brazil)
Romulo Conceição (Brazil)
Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa)
Sallisa Rosa (Brazil) and Quantum Scrap (Brazil)
Shirley Villavicencio Pizango (Peru)
Tabitha Rezaire (France)
Thiago Martins de Melo (Brazil)
Profane Ventura (Brazil)
Vijai Patchineelam (Brazil)
Zumvi Photographic Archive (Brazil)

“Entities”, Jaider Esbell. Photo: Matheus Jose Maria

the exposure of the river is a serpent runs from August 21, 2021 to January 30, 2022, and visits can be made through advance scheduling. Seats for sessions are limited to maintain safe distance between visitors, in line with protocols for the safe operation of museums, exhibitions and galleries at this time. (Learn more about the 3rd edition of Cracks – Arts Triennial and read the review by Fabio Cypriano about the final exhibition)

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