From right to left: Patricia Rousseaux, João Fernandes, Voluspa Jarpa, Aníbal Jozami, Diana Wechsler, Fabio Cypriano and Mario Pfeifer. PHOTO: Marina Malheiros

*Photos: Marina Malheiros


Last Thursday, September 6th, at the Ibirapuera Auditorium, the V International Seminar ARTE!Brasileiros, entitled “Art Beyond Art”, with the participation of artists, curators, museum directors and art historians from several countries. The event began with the screening of the work “Again”, by the German Mario Pfeifer, and followed with the panel “Geopolitics and Art”, with Aníbal Jozami, João Fernandes, Voluspa Jarpa, Diana Wechsler and mediation by Fabio Cypriano.

First to speak, Argentine sociologist Aníbal Jozami, dean of the National University of Três de Fevereiro (UNTREF) and director of BIENALSUR, highlighted the importance of culture in the integration of peoples and its role in reducing inequalities and injustices in the world. “Because we thought so, we created a Bienal that was often an act of indiscipline,” he said.

In its first edition, in 2017, BIENALSUR was held in 32 cities in 16 countries and, according to Jozami, somehow impacted around 25 million people. For the sociologist, making culture circular is a way of breaking with the current hierarchy, which establishes that what should govern the world is what was thought and created in the North. “We believe that there is no hierarchical order in culture, in art.”

Initially conceived at UNTREF, in Buenos Aires, BIENALSUR formed a committee with members from almost 30 universities spread across different countries, including northern countries. “Because for us the idea of ​​the south is not just geographical, but a perspective on the world, a way of situating ourselves in it”.

Jozami also spoke of the importance of BIENALSUR being more than a set of exhibitions, but also a platform for thought and debate. “And so we created the Sur Global project, which every two months brings together artists, critics, curators, sociologists, philosophers and politicians from various places to discuss contemporary art and culture.”

Finally, the Argentinian spoke about the different axes of the biennial's work, especially those that had a direct impact on the lives of people in underprivileged regions of several cities. “Because I believe that it is possible to make culture circulate and go against the prevailing hierarchy in the world. It is possible to continue being a lover of utopia,” said Jozami, before concluding by talking about the need to break down borders in a world that, unfortunately, is building more and more walls.

The second presentation was by the Argentinian art historian Diana Wechsler, artistic director of BIENALSUR, who explained a little more about the biennial and its creation. For her, it is remarkable that the hierarchical relationships of the contemporary world are also revealed in the field of culture. “This relationship between center and periphery in the current capitalist system is also imprinted in symbolic relationships, in the field of art. Therefore, if this conventional map imposes a series of circuits and hierarchies on us, we propose to deactivate them and rethink them. That's why we talk about the word indiscipline”.

Wechsler explained that BIENALSUR proposes a series of different dynamics from those instituted in other events of this type, since it is a procedural biennial, displaced in space and quite horizontal in its curatorship. In the first edition, from an open call for the artists' proposals, work axes emerged, with themes such as art on borders, art and social action, interventions in urban space, environmental issues, gender issues and immigration, among others.

Still on the horizontality of BIENALSUR, Wechsler explained that the event carries out its projects both in museums and other art institutions, as well as in schools, universities and in public spaces in different cities; it also works with young or established artists from various continents, allowing them to dialogue and exchange experiences.

Finally, the historian highlighted the possibility of BIENALSUR “taking on contemporary social demands from the point of view of artistic production and including them as problems that can make each show, each project, not only a space for knowledge, but also for thought” , allowing people to feel in dialogue with these projects.

After the exhibitions by Jozami and Wechsler, it was Chilean artist Voluspa Jarpa's turn to talk about her work, linked to history and its representations, developed mainly from archival research. The artist has been working for about 15 years with the files of intelligence agencies that the United States has declassified (that is, made public) about Latin American countries during the Cold War period.

According to her, her reasons for working with archives “do not come from the basic concepts of historiography, from the need to verify and contrast sources of information to establish a point of view of dispute with the historian”. The reason for approaching and diving into the archives “comes from the encounter with the erasure and censorship of information, it comes from non-history or, what is more mysterious, it comes from the dimension of secrecy as a matter of national security, its hysteria and its muteness” , she said, remembering that she lived her childhood in Latin America still marked by military dictatorships.

The beginning of his research took place with the declassification, in 1999, of files referring to the Chilean dictatorial period, where details about the American participation in the violent repression of opponents of the regime are exposed. “I remember the shock when I saw this news, and the expectation created, as I thought that there would be a great historic upheaval in Chile as a result. It didn’t happen, but for me it became a symbolic issue.”

The artist also spoke of the shock of seeing that, even in the declassified files, there were many stripes and scratches that prevented the reading of the entire document. “It's a hysterical act of showing and repressing at the same time. And it reveals that in a document from 1972, for example, there are still reasons why information should not be revealed today.”

Voluspa Jarpa showed some of his work involving research into intelligence archives.

For Jarpa, thinking about the geopolitical guidelines explained in these many archives also says a lot about culture. “To think that this has no correlate in art is to ignore the historical platform on which we move.” According to her, one of the things she learned most in all these years was to understand the depth with which geopolitics determines subjectivity and the way in which discourses circulate around the world.

“We are not clear enough that we still live under colonial systems, not only economic and political, but above all psychic and subjective, which prevent us from seeing the extent to which our histories and our decisions do not yet belong to us”, concluded the artist. “We inhabit regions that are not sufficiently emancipated. And when we produce, in art, discourses of emancipation, I think they are still not seen as discourses of emancipation.”

The last to speak on the panel was the Portuguese João Fernandes, deputy director of the Reina Sofia National Museum of Art, in Madrid, who was also director of the Serralves Museum, in Porto, between 2003 and 2013, and curator at several biennials. Citing the works of Jasper and the German Mario Pfeifer, also present at the seminar, Fernandes began his speech by proposing a reflection on artistic production in a world full of inequalities, exploitation and oppression.

"It's interesting how so many works of art today bring us such evidence of world problems that the world reveals very little awareness of." For him, art often reveals hidden problems and helps us to problematize dominant discourses. Fernandes highlighted, however, an apparent paradox of the globalized world, in which often “the more information, the less knowledge we have”. “And even the very proliferation of information from artistic communication systems contributes to socially anesthetizing many of the situations that happen.”

The director continued talking about the importance of the Bienal de São Paulo in its early years in the task of decolonizing the history of art; “Critically decolonize realities that still survive today in relation to all this colonial past, Eurocentric, homocentric, phallocentric, etc.”. According to him, it was here that the whole discourse of domination began to be assimilated, “eaten, devoured and vomited”, which also marked artistic production and the geopolitical domination of the world over time.

“(…) we have to think about how to produce the radicality of creating and problematizing new artistic languages ​​independently of information systems”, concluded João Fernandes.

After citing the Semana de 22 and anthropophagy, Fernandes spoke of the importance of these models of resistance that emerged in Latin America throughout the 20th century and how they contributed to new ways of making art. Returning to current times, the director stated that “art has absorbed many discourses produced outside of it and, if this has a positive side in bringing to light facts hidden by a dominant ideology, it has also degraded and disintegrated what the work of art has. offered something different, from her experience, from her new proposals to build ways of thinking, experiencing, feeling and diverging”.

The most interesting thing, according to him, is to think that art manages to stimulate such different possibilities of interpretation and knowledge, “and this is something that can only be achieved if art does not abdicate and does not fail to deepen the radicality of its own discourse that it has always had and can continue to have”.

“That's why I'm not interested in 'art beyond art', but in art that is part of the world, that knows how to be part of it, that shows us how life is more interesting than art. So we have to think about how to produce the radicality of creating and problematizing new artistic languages ​​independently of information systems”, concluded Fernandes.

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