31st Bienal de São Paulo | See the highlighted projects on view

(São Paulo, Brazil)

The title of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, “How to (…) things that don’t exist”, is a poetic invocation of art’s capacities, of its ability to reflect and act upon on life, power and belief. The sentence, neither a question nor a proposition, entangles, through art, the mystical and spiritual side of life with political and social ideals – all this in a constantly changing world. It intends to communicate optimism about the possibilities of art today – an optimism that echoes that of the Bienal and the projects within it. The range of possibilities for action and intervention is open – an openness that is the reason for the first of the two verbs in the title to constantly change, anticipating the actions that might make present these things that don’t exist. We started by talking about them, later to move onto living with them. This was followed by using, struggling against and learning from those same things, in a list that has no end.

The existence of things that don’t exist can be grasped if we recognise that human understanding and action are partial, limited by expectations and beliefs. Some things, then, fall outside the commonly accepted frames of thinking and doing at any given time. When people find themselves in discord with existing explanations of life and their experience of it, the things that don’t exist become most tangible in their absence. They are often experienced as confrontations with limitations or injustices that we feel we cannot surpass, because we do not posses the means to do so.

See some of the projects on view:

Armando Queiroz with Almires Martins and Marcelo Rodrigues – “Ymá Nhandehetama” (2009)

The political action involved in the video is a reflext of Armando Queiroz’s activity as artist, curator, professor, writer and director of the Casa das Onze Janelas (Belém, Pará). All these activities are characterised today by a reflection upon Amazonia as a place of geographical, economical and identity conflicts. Queiroz usually employs readings and workshops as work strategies, through which the participants inevitably share power and responsability over a collective subject.

Arthur Scovino – “Casa de caboclo” (2014)

Simplicity and strength are the main qualities of the caboclo, a fundamental entity in umbanda and candomblé religions. The simplicity in articulation, treatment and means characterises “Casa de caboclo”, by Arthur Scovino: an environment in constant change that could be home or cerimonial, in which a set of images (drawings, photographs and writings) and tools (books, gases and liquids) are gathered to ease the encounter that will happen inside this very environment.

Clara Ianni and Débora Maria da Silva – “Apelo” (2014)

“Apelo” comes from the urgency to deal with the institutionalization of violence in Brazil – welded into the country’s history since European colonization in the 16th century – and the difficulty in relating to its legacy. Filmed in the Dom Bosco Cemetery in the Perus neighborhood, São Paulo outskirts, where urban and rural landscape meet, the work connects present acts of violence with those from the past through public speech.

Thiago Martins de Melo – “Martyrdom” (2014)

In “Martyrdom”, oil is actually flesh, gaining weight and exceeding the canvas, like a violent or violated painting. The work gathers sculptures, takes the form of an installation, an environment to step into. It also carries the logic of painting, but is really a formal threshold, purgatory. “Martyrdom” addresses Amazonia – “a landscape of the international capital periphery”, according to the artist, referring to the role the forest has in an exploratory economy that changed setting since the Portuguese arrival in 1500, but was never overcome.

Virgínia de Medeiros – “Sergio & Simone” (2007-2014)

In 2006, Virginia de Medeiros met Simone, who lived in one of the rundown areas of Salvador. Interested in the locals, the artists began documenting aspects of Simone’s life on video. About a month after the first recording, Simone had a seizure caused by her crack abuse, followed by a mystical delirium in which she thought she had found God. After that, Simone recovered her name Sergio and took on a religious mission and so narrates to the camera her story of transformation and new identity.

Yuri Firmeza – “A fortaleza / Nada é” (2010-2014)

In “A fortaleza”, Yuri Firmeza reenacts a childhood photographic in which he poses as an lifter, bending the arms with tense muscles to demonstrate his strength. Between one image and the other – a nearly two decade gap – as well as the boy’s growth into an adult, the radical change in landscape draws attention. In the first picture, we see houses, some buildings and the horizon at the background; in the other, taller buildings now fill the spaces that were once empty. You can hardly see Fortaleza, city where the artist lives since a small age. The city is now an built fortress, and Yuri presents himself in front of it joking, with his lean body, while at the same time taking responsibility as inhabitant.

– all informations extracted and adapted from the Bienal page.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo
Ibirapuera Park, gate 3
Bienal pavillion

6th September to 7th December
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Holidays: 9am to 7pm (entrance until 6pm)
Wednesdays and Saturdays: 9am to 10pm (entrance until 9pm)
Closed Mondays
Free admission

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