Wind, by Joan Jonas, 1968, at the Bienal Pavilion
"Wind", by Joan Jonas, 1968, at the Bienal Pavilion. Photo: Courtesy of the Bienal de São Paulo

Aenter the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion to visit Wind, on the first trip out of the house since mid-March, provoked two strange feelings: one, returning, in person, to the art circuit; the other, to look for – in a programmatic way – an immensity of works and to be received by selected pieces, arranged between the architectural silences of the pavilion, the house of the São Paulo Biennial since 1957. Now, Wind counts with only 21 artists of the 34th edition, in a exposure that was not foreseen.

In the hellish year, the organization of the event had to dance the dance of 2020 and make changes to what was initially imagined. Even so, the 34th Bienal had already been conceived as a kind of open essay, an exhibition in process; that way, Wind it is not an alien body within the concept of an exhibition constantly under construction, which “publicly reflects on itself”. In fact, after the short period of being estranged from the voids, the exhibition's scheme reveals itself to be organic and dispels the suspicion of the provisional.

Em Wind it is proposed the occupation of the building without the use of any built partition, without the insertion of intermediate spaces, but in direct contact with the amplitude, monumentality and transparency of the Pavilion. The works – almost two-thirds of them being sound and video installations – “create anchors in space that invite us to re-signify the idea of ​​waiting, distance, emptiness and loss, which is all around us. They grow in this space, creating walks of reflection, walks of digestion of the provocations brought by the artists”, as stated by the assistant curator of the Bienal, Paulo Miyada.

On this indivisible surface, the sounds accompany the visitor through the dematerialized works, announcing the arrival of some of them and, at times, also fighting each other, overlapping and disputing the visitor's concentration. They are the ones who help to combat the melancholy of vacancies and the necessary social distancing. At a time when the second wave of Covid-19 was being denied by the city and the status of the crisis, overnight, had its severity changed, from yellow to green and vice versa, it was reassuring to realize that the Bienal had respected health recommendations; after all, the fear of the invisible does not go away anytime soon, even when it is part of the contemplation of the works presented in Wind.

The title of the show comes from the film wind, by Joan Jonas, who tries to make that invisible, visible. In it, the American artist recorded the efforts of a group of dancers to perform a choreography on the beach of Long Island, in New York, on one of the coldest days of 1968. As they perform their movements, they also resist the strong wind. that imposes itself against their bodies. Thus, Jonas' film shows the invisible through contrast, placing something in the void to reveal it.

Still from "Wind" (1968), by Joan Jonas. Courtesy of the Bienal de São Paulo
Still from “Wind” (1968), by Joan Jonas. Courtesy of the Bienal de São Paulo

“The wind carries the echo, which is both the memory of what was said and its reverberation into the future. Wind, similarly, works as the index of this edition of the biennial, in the sense that it points out some of the themes that will return expanded in the exhibition of September of next year, and at the same time it refers to what has already happened”, wrote Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, general curator of the edition, in one of the correspondences published on the website of the 34th Bienal.

As in Visconti's words, the work botanical insurgencies, by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, which is in Wind, was shown for the first time at the opening of the 34th Bienal, in February, inaugurated with a performance by the South African Neo Muyanga. In it, the elaboration of a hydroponic cultivation system that allows plants to grow throughout the year offers the public the opportunity to follow the different moments of the installation's transformation and gives longevity to the work.

“Botanical Insurgencies” (2017-2020), by Ximena Garrido-Lecca. Photo: Courtesy of the Bienal de São Paulo.

Garrido-Lecca's work is made with bean seeds that were used by the pre-Incan Moche civilization in their written communication system (something recorded in the ceramics of this people). This same civilization developed between the years 100 and 850 an advanced irrigation system to which the work is also related. The uninterrupted development of the work emphasizes the biennial's curatorial effort to be conceived as a process: “November's light is not the same as February's; now tikmũ'ũn chants resonate around the plants, which have grown, withered and re-grown,” says the organization.

Repetition and recombination are no accident. Both were incorporated from the early stages of the event as a conceptual strategy to demonstrate that the  The meaning of a work transforms, multiplies, as sensitive and social contexts change. This is latent in view of the revisitation to the series expandable, by Regina Silveira, produced during the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship, and the recording of Words Ajenas, by León Ferrari, who now communicates with the manipulation of information in the age of the internet of things.

Deana Lawson's work presented in Wind will take the opposite route, following this pattern of recidivism. Presented for the first time now, it will return to the artist's show at the biennial's main event, scheduled for 2021. In this video work, the artist highlights different areas of black culture by interspersing and superimposing images of religious rituals on the African continent and records of major sporting and musical events in the United States. As in her photographs, the artist's observation has, at the same time, the gaze of a insider and from one voyeur. In the same way, she also walks between the documentary record and a mystical or oneiric perspective, in which time can even go back.

In general, the works within the curatorship of Wind reinforce a non-optional resistance reflected in the title of the 34th Bienal: It's dark but I sing. In addition to the pandemic, for Brazilians 2020 included arson in the Pantanal, a 22-day blackout in Amapá and political disasters intensified by the cultural wars. Next to this darkness, the biennial's adaptations do not seem tragic. As Joan Didion would say, “in a perfect world, we can have perfect choices; In the real world, we have real choices, and we make them, and we measure the losses against what the gains could have been.”

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