ontemporary sociopolitical conflicts emerge at this 14th Curitiba Biennial, inaugurated on September 21. The works range from contemporary Russian art and its shrapnel in the system to those denouncing diasporas forced by conflicts, racism, persecution. Under the theme Open Borders this edition also brings poetic intersections with purely artistic suggestions and interests, but attention is drawn to the proposals engaged at the saying: “to create is resist”. The general theme is inspired by the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that reconfigured part of the world, in particular Eastern Europe.
The volume of works reaches 400, executed by about 100 artists, and testifies to the mutation of contemporary art that transforms the space into a place of traces, clues to be deciphered. This time the Curitiba Biennial, whose central axis is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, expands its edges and reaches other cities and countries.
The porosity of art is sensitive to the changes of society and contemporary issues of all kinds. Tereza de Arruda, a Brazilian who lives in Germany, and Spaniard Adolfo Montejo Navas sign the general curatorship and understand the border as an element far beyond geographic space. A group of foreign curators join them: Massimo Scaringella (Italy/Argentina), Gabriela Urtiaga (Argentina), Ernestine White (South Africa), Esebjia Bannan (Russia) and Julie Dumont (Belgium).
More than twenty years after apartheid, South African Sethembile Msezane became a militant through her denouncing performances of the black woman’s unviability in her country. Her performances merge ritualism, activism and usually occupy public spaces with a lot of audience. Sitting on the floor of her tent covered by transparent red cloths, she individually welcomed visitors to the Biennale who wanted to think about the moment we are living. Certainly Sethembile was horrified by what he heard about Brazil. By becoming an artist, she became a militant against racism, oppression and the lack of opportunity for blacks. “Having lived in Cape Town for about five years, I felt a profound sense of displacement and invisibility.” Her conversations with the audience were accompanied by an African musician who performed songs typical of his region.
Imagine a restless eye that wants to denounce the ills of the world through intercropped scenes of cyber space. This is how works Hito Steyerl’s retina, a german filmmaker, cultural critic and cyber artist, one of the special names of this 14th Biennial. The striking aspect of Factory of the Sun is the focus on the privileged of the system, which she calls “people of the world” and in the human beings forced to the diaspora. The video is actually a game temperate with complaints and humor in which the main character, Yulia, a cyborg type, makes the narration in which she discusses, among other topics, the forced exile of her Jewish family to Russia. One of the strengths of discourse is the way she simulates the infiltration and influence of money in the world of art. Hito became known for taking a political stance without fear of defying market power. The artist has exhibited in several countries and represented Germany at the Venice Biennale 2015.
Russia, India, China and South Africa are gathered in the Brics segment, curated by Ernestine White-Mifetu, Esenija Bannan, Lu Zhengyuan and Tereza de Arruda. Humor and criticism of the system move the Russian collective AES + F that provokes the intersection of photography, video and digital technology. With the multimedia work Inverse World the group dramatizes criticism among these media, some non sense, diving into art history and social issues limits of the current world. AES + F became known after representing the Russian pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale with the provocative Last Riot.
Biennials are heterogeneous territories with fragmentation in ways of producing. In these large shows there are no dimensions limits to present a work, nor scales. Cruzeiro do Sul, 1969/1970, the sculpture of Cildo Meirelles, a tiny wooden block that can be enjoyed at the tip of an index finger, grows under a spotlight while taking the center of the room. The artist demarcates a territory, in a political sense, and connects with the points of the constellation of the same name. This work, since its creation has provoked numerous interpretations and remains open. In the Entremundos segment, among others of the show, several Brazilians are presented, among them Arthur Omar with five paintings and a fragment of the video Os Cavalos de Goya (The Horses of Goya) made with images of a hockey game in which the ball is an animal carcass. Working boundaries, Regina Vater presents Bordas, 2019, a long and delicate sculpture that seems to shape territorial designs born by borders, instruments of territorial regulation.
On earth nothing is permanent. Territorial contours fall apart, move according to conflicts, political arrangements, geographic accidents. The idea of constant movement led the 14th Curitiba Biennial to hitchhike on all municipal buses, where until March 1 projects a series of videos during the trips, presenting a new audience, different from those that normally pass through the fairs and Biennials.