Seu Jovenil holding the portrait of his uncle, Otávio Caetano, cupópia master and community partygoer, undated. Quilombo Cafundó, 35th São Paulo Biennial. Courtesy: CEDAE - Alexandre Eulálio Cultural Documentation Center, State University of Campinas
Seu Jovenil holding the portrait of his uncle, Otávio Caetano, cupópia master and community partygoer, undated. Quilombo Cafundó, 35th São Paulo Biennial. Courtesy: CEDAE - Alexandre Eulálio Cultural Documentation Center, State University of Campinas

The way we perceive the reality of life in society is dialectically affected by the experiences we develop in it, by the multiplicity of constructed relationships and hierarchies produced and established in territories governed by capitalism in its peripheral version. If there is any consensus regarding this 35th São Paulo Biennial – choreographies of the impossible, it will probably confirm, or not, the rise of counter-hegemonic sensibilities, which repel and resist other vocations disciplined by exclusionary heteronormativity and, consequently, racist, xenophobic, often misogynistic and infallibly homo and transphobic.

This lexicon prospected for the construction of narratives constituted against power is, in its affirmative form, historically new, a set of concepts that participate in the intention of surpassing chronicles that have been consolidated until now, thus allowing the gradual revision of programs considered paradigmatic.

In the experiences born of facing the necropolitics (Achille Mbembe's definition) it is not insignificant that the country's peripheral sociocultural institutions present themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, and based on their vocations and constitutional attributes, as erotic and eroticizing territories, symbolically and syncretically. Exu, the Afro-Atlantic god, and Eros – the Greek personification of desire, who, like Exu, is a messenger of fertility – unite in opposition to Thanatos, ruler of death and its drives.

This option is made clear in organizations such as quilombos and villages, but also in community and favela museums, which come in various shapes and forms, such as, for example, the interesting Quilombaque Cultural Community, created in 2005 in the Perus neighborhood, in the region Northwest of São Paulo. They and their counterparts not only survived the necropolitics that guide our historical scenario, but, in addition, managed to develop lexicons, technologies, discourses and practices of resistance and repellence to violence, symbolic and, at times, lethal, to which they were and still are are exposed.

The title that names the São Paulo biennial exhibition, choreographies of the impossible, suggests, of course, a varied range of interpretations, among them one that, presumably, ponders the irruption of a production that, contrary to a certain reactionary expectation, was not interrupted, despite the enormous efforts that have been made day in and day out against it.

If institutions like the São Paulo Biennial, and the great museums and similar institutions in the city and the country, have the power to project the political, economic and symbolic power of the class, gender and race of those who, after all, organize and sponsor events of this magnitude, this does not happen by default and outside the will of other groups, but, on the contrary, it signals a process of disputes that will require a review of practices (and collections) concomitantly with the deepening of theses that result in more democratic actions and, therefore, more inclusive. Therefore, the presence in the pavilions of social movements and their analogues, such as Quilombo Cafundó, Cozinha Ocupação 9 de Julho, MTST (homeless workers movement), which are not confused, but reiterate powers that other strategies in the field of art, they were already demonstrating this, see Frente 3 de Fevereiro, which was also a participant in the Biennale.


One should not exaggerate the supposedly liberal character of the institution that provided the public with access to works of contestatory content; on the contrary, it was precisely the organized “pressure” of groups oppressed by epistemicide and economic horror that has been demanding circulation and access. to the artistic and intellectual representations present in this Biennale. In fact, the rise of black people, people of origin and other marginalized groups is also due to the achievements of public policies that recently promoted affirmative and reparative actions, notably aiming to create access to higher education.

In the center of the ground floor pavilion that gives access to the exhibition, a discreet white and cruciform structure supports, on each of its bases, a television, on which documentary films are shown about the African-American dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) . Legendary, Dunham had, and continues to have, an important role in her field and even outside of it, as she played a prominent role in the fight for civil rights in her country. Dunham, through her performance on stage, sought to erode and contest the dichotomy that opposes so-called “erudite” knowledge to that of “popular” extraction. Her dance updates the importance of this language as it is a manifestation that participates religiously and secularly at the center of cosmogonies that were harshly repressed, precisely because they participate in a constitutive way in the symbolic and everyday universe of the colonized and oppressed, who through dance preserved (protected) ) their bodies in tune with their minds.

And it is emblematic that the work of the pioneering black artist and curator Emanoel Araújo (1944-2022) is present on this same first floor. Passed away exactly a year ago, he was also one of the creators of the paths that brought us here and to some of the results present in this exhibition.

These choices suggest a curatorial project that refuses the epistemicide to which the populations to which, significantly, many of the artists present in the exhibition belong are subjected.

In the museum created by Araújo in 2004, Afro Brasil, which recently incorporated the name of its creator into its name, there is a marked presence of works made with materials also recurring in this biennial, namely earth, clay, ceramics and wood, in addition to artisanal weaving. Materials that, in addition to constituting works, give rise to technologies such as that used by Denilson Baniwa in the corn field he cultivates in one of the exhibition pavilions.

Rommulo Vieira da Conceição, an artist and professor from Bahia based in Porto Alegre, in the south of the country, presents installation proposals that investigate architectures through the colorful reproduction of some of its elements. They exist in contrast to the white and modern curves of the Biennale building. Conceição, of African descent, does not replicate militant protests in his work. Although there are elements that subtly suggest his ethnic origin, this is not the theme that the artist focuses on. This, let's say, border, which establishes the field of militancy, participatory art and supposed apolitical formalism is increasingly obsolete, as the work is not exactly about tension, but about relocation, displacement of meanings and senses.

The work of photographer Rosa Gauditano, for example and by the way, expands the debate around lesbian history in the country, but beyond that it reveals the gravity of a work that was previously little considered. The story she presents from her photos, despite the advances observed in certain circles, generally continues in silence. Here it gains breadth, as if establishing a “temporary zone of freedom”, which outside of this territory is banned by the agenda of the so-called conservatives.

The establishment of a vocabulary that reflects the concerns of those who diverge will allow it to be incorporated into the repertoire of everyday ideas and actions. Trivialized, this same glossary may unfairly suggest that there already exists an equitable representation of class, gender and race in the art environment. It can, even worse, suggest the predominance of a group, previously stigmatized and relegated, over another, which has always been incensed and overrepresented. The four curators of this Biennial, Diane Lima, Kilomba Grada, Hélio Menezes and Manuel Borja-Villel, bringing historicized productions to the center of the pavilion, such as that of Emanoel Araújo or those in the process of historicization, such as the work of Rosa Gaditano and Sidney Amaral (1973-2017), take the risk of signaling to the need to precisely validate the permanence and circulation of today's experiences and stories from others that were once also perceived as divergent.

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