Detail of the work Sem “Untitled”, from the series “Torção” (2015), by Sonia Gomes
Detail of the work Sem “Untitled”, from the series “Torção” (2015), by Sonia Gomes, present at the 56th Venice Biennale
By Ligia Braslauskas

"Ithistorical diction”“genius”, “courageous”. Curator Solange Farkas does not measure up to All the World's Futures (All the Futures of the World), at 56a edition of the Venice Art Biennale, under the direction of the Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor.

It's not for less. Most of the artists and projects presented by Okwui coincide with the research carried out by Farkas at Associação Cultural Videobrasil. Since 1996, with the 11tha edition of the International Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil, the creator and director is dedicated to presenting works produced outside the traditional axis formed by the USA and Europe. South America, the Middle East and Africa, their constant destinations, and, according to her, “the world has an urgency for this geopolitical repositioning” and Enwezor “was brave to do just that at the Venice Biennale”.

Na 19a In this edition of the Festival, which starts on October 5th, two artists coincide with the Italian exhibition: the Brazilian Sonia Gomes, special guest, and the Swede based in São Paulo, Runo Lagomarsino. He presents, by the way, the same work on display in Venice, Following the Sunshine I Just Discovered the Cause, a true story about the difficulty of fate for a monument in honor of Christopher Columbus.

Read, below, why Farkas considers the upcoming edition of the Venice Biennale to be “historic”.

ARTE!Brasileiros — The Venice Biennale has a majority of artists from regions such as Africa and the Middle East, until now with little visibility, but with whom you have worked for at least two decades. Did you expect that from Enwezor?
Solange Farkas – I expected, of course. If there's anyone who could reposition the arts scene from this perspective of looking at the world with its scope, and not just from a Western, European and US perspective, that guy is Enwezor. We know this from his research, which has already been seen at Documenta in Kassel (2002), at the Johannesburg Biennial (1997), at the Gwanjiu Biennial (2008). After all, he comes from this part of the world, he is a Nigerian who travels a lot in Africa and these other places. The fact that he has already held the most important shows in the visual arts made this a synthesis of his research and it will be his legacy, because he assumed that he will no longer do major shows. Now, the world has an urgent need for this geopolitical repositioning and this is evidently taking place, so he was brave to do this at the Venice Biennale, which is one of the most traditional.

But he also addresses the history of the Bienal itself in the show…
That's great. As the oldest Bienal, it spanned all the important events of the 1974th century. I did not know, for example, that the Bienal spoke out against the Pinochet Coup, in Chile, in XNUMX, as he addresses in the current exhibition. In a way, with this, Venice redeemed itself for having gone through two world wars without taking a position, unlike the Kassel Documenta, which was born with a perspective of revaluing modern art after the collapse of Nazism. This is also part of these other narratives that Enwezor presents. We live in a critical historical moment, as he says, which is a financial and social crisis. To use The capital as the guiding thread of the Bienal is, without a doubt, of extraordinary courage and was not random. I think this Bienal has several important issues and one of them is to show the world in this critical dimension, giving voice to artists who deal with it. But it is also not an opposition to the mainstream, because many artists from this circuit participate with very good works. I also think it is important that he commissioned works, there is a lot of work produced for the Bienal, which is sensational.

But the reception of this Bienal in the arts circuit is very negative. Do you think it's prejudice?
I'm sure it's prejudice. It's that simplistic thing of someone who looks and doesn't know how to deal with it because they don't have a repertoire, and the reaction is negative. That's rough. I've never seen a Bienal with so many unknown people from the circuit, but they are familiar to me because I travel in Africa and the Middle East, for example. They are artists that I know in their place of origin and I have never seen them in Venice and I have never seen Venice with such an incredible vibe with people realizing the importance of this gesture. And what strikes me is that many of these artists approach silence in their work, as a way of commenting on rejection.

Steve McQueen's work at the Venice Biennale. Photo: Disclosure

Does Sonia Gomes fit into this type of thinking?
Totally. If you think about who she is in the context of Brazilian art, which no one knows, which is voiceless, and which people are starting to discover. I was surprised by her work there, I expected something bigger, and she did something discreet, which went into the cracks of the columns, where she found space, contaminating that space in a beautiful way and with an impressive organicity. She has a lot of work like that, especially that of Senegalese Fatou Kandé Senghor. It is a documentary, even quite conventional, of an artisan who lives in a village and sculpts women's bodies. Her name is Seni Awa Camara. To see this in Venice, in a place where everyone has to go through, is incredible. I watched the entire movie and almost cried. It's giving voice to that place, it's a very big time shift. With that, he seals something that has not yet been colonized.

It is interesting to see how Enwezor not only changed who is usually represented there, but how to present it, radically changing both the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale.
Totally. I didn't recognize myself in that place. I have been attending the Bienal for decades and this time I got lost. It's great, and I think it's an achievement to see these changes.

In the catalogue, he states that art doesn't have to be political, but an exhibition at this time in Venice does.
It is clear. Is obvious. There is an urgency and artists live in this context and their works are contaminated by this context, there is no way not to get there. Even if it is not a clearly militant work, and many are not, the world is upside down, it is impossible not to comment.

Steve McQueen's work goes in that direction, doesn't it?
Yup. He is beautiful and poetic. For me, it is the most beautiful work of the Bienal. It's a scare. I knew one of the parts, the boy swinging on the end of the boat, that I saw in London. But the second part, about his death, when we see the grave being built, is very sad. The whole ritual has no words. And there are also many works there that are clearly militant, such as Invisible Borders, a highly articulate collective of Nigerian photographers, writers and filmmakers who presented the The Trans-African Project, and that very few people know about. They are extremely important, for me one of the cutting edge works of contemporary art. And another collective, the abounaddara, which Enwezor himself introduced me to years ago, of filmmakers in Syria, anonymous for security reasons, otherwise they die. They give people cameras and record all this massacre that takes place in Syria, it's quite a tactical media job. They are short films available on the web and document what is happening today and the victims of war. During the Bienal, the films are shown at the Arena. They invented a new genre in cinema called urgency film.

There's a great deal of dialogue with the past Bienal de São Paulo, isn't it?
Totally. Charles Esche has this research, it's true. But given the importance of the Venice Biennale and the fact that it has never actually transgressed, this is a historic edition.

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