art beyond art

*By Diana Wechsler

Thinking about art, “beyond art” today, implies asking ourselves again about its scope and limits and, in this way, being able to sustain – hypothetically and temporarily – always, the consideration that, in some way, everything is art or it is not art. .

Let us remember that the concept of art is historically and culturally inscribed in a precise way and that speaking of “art” today implies referring, a priori, to considerations from the XNUMXth century, which considered and included within the concept of “art” variables linked to representative, magico-religious, ornamental needs, etc.

It is true that this notion remains in force today and continues to be effective, regardless of its limitations, to name certain types of images, objects and acts. Precisely at the moment when the notion of art was established, art history also appeared as a scientific discipline capable of organizing and thinking about the system of images in Western Europe.

From here, we begin to ask ourselves, to what extent, this discipline, formulated in this way, would be able to deal with the diversity of global symbolic production, understood within the notion of “art” and, even more, within contemporary artistic processes.

The expansion of its field of action has been increasing. In the last 40 years, both studies dedicated to the visual arts, as well as several of the interconnected perspectives - cultural sociology, anthropology, philosophy and history - have contributed to broadening critical thinking and the repertoire of objects to consider.


Always leaving the debate open, it may be necessary to establish some new parameters. To place the gaze and the imaginary in another place, to resignify the apprehension of forms and images and how they are constituted, in a way not only to order them thinking from the logic of a “system”, but from an entropic place, seeking to accompany its de-order, identifying and associating multiple vectors. Given that the scope of contemporary production has expanded - definitely artists are increasingly impacted by the social, political, environmental spheres and seek to interfere/intervene in some way - symbolic productions also needed to expand their theoretical-critical toolbox, in the search of capturing both the poetic dimensions and their complexity and dialoguing with different audiences.

On the other hand, there is the logic of the market that insistently seeks to define citizenship and culture, precisely the art space is not alien to this. In this sense, a contemporary production with aspirations to go beyond the spaces that would naturally be assigned to it, the logic of a single work, of a “white cube”, of museological aspiration, contributes to the work of emancipation of thought.

It is from these considerations that the formats – of art and for art – in which contemporary art is inserted demand a review and a replanning of the relationships between the actors, projects and spaces of the “art system”: from artists to curators, critics, collectors, even institutions – museums, centers, galleries, residences, training centers.

In this sense, the sociologist Aníbal Jozami and I thought of creating a platform, BIENALSUR, that thinks beyond the system, trying to trace other ways to cross it. Creating rules that could enrich (the system?) a little arrogant? A cross from sociology and international relations and from cultural studies, together with other disciplines, which allowed the analysis of specific and known forms within the system and renegotiation, without escaping from certain marks of the global geopolitical order.

art beyond art

We decided to work, then, with some of the instruments already designed to represent the world: maps – instruments of order and control of territories – And, as a way of representing one of the outstanding aspects of BIENALSUR, we chose a map whose “Rose of the Winds” guides, provocatively, wherever you are placed, to the SOUTH.

Thinking from the South does not refer only to the work of Joaquím Torres García, but to a global South. This is not a geographical issue, but an attempt to change the point of view. An attempt to “turn our thinking around”. We can be BIENALSUR, in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Tokyo or in Madrid or Svalbard.

A cartography without political limits, which simultaneously presents host cities of artistic projects chosen, by a council of experts, among a vast presentation. From an open call. This cartography, far from establishing borders, proposes coexistence. It pairs museums, schools, public spaces, small institutions. It establishes a convergence of themes and artists from different origins, backgrounds and generations in exhibitions designed from the projects sent by the artists, thus inverting the usual dynamics.

This project that critically thinks about the established parameters allows us to reflect on the “edges” that today determine the contours or limits of art. From where we see and how, what is outside or inside our gaze, even more so when we exercise a critical look. An undisciplined proposal is a condition to expand, from the artistic point of view, the limits of thought for the emergence of a contemporary humanism.


*Diana Wechsler is an art historian, researcher, director of culture of UNTREF and artistic director of BIENALSUR

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