Jardim Miriam Arte Clube's atelier. Photo: Courtesy JAMAC

Both the choice of five collectives as nominees for the Turner Prize, in 2021, and the announcement of 14 collectives as the first participants in documenta fifteen indicate an important moment of inflection in artistic practice, which reveals the spirit of the time: the passage of isolation from the called the plastic artist in his atelier for an action of solidary and sustainable character, which aims at new forms of action in the world. Finally.

In other artistic areas, such as theater, dance and music, for example, the collective experience has always been present. In the visual arts, very little, despite several isolated historical cases. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, initiatives have been growing that have not ceased to be mapped in important exhibitions such as the Panorama of Brazilian Art in 2001, curated by Paulo Reis, Ricardo Basbaum and Ricardo Resende, at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM-SP).

Among the groups selected there were Atrocidades Maravilhosas, Mico and Clube da Lata, who for twenty years had already sought a new form of agency in the artistic scene. Artist Mônica Nador also participated in that edition of Panorama, with the project Paredes Pinturas, the origin of Jamac – Jardim Miriam Arte Clube, which five years later participated in the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, in 2006.

With general curatorship by Lisette Lagnado, the edition, entitled Como Viver Junto, actually brought more collectives besides Jamac itself, such as the Argentine Eloisa Cartonera and the Chinese Long March Project. Eight years later, in the 31st edition, a group of curators selected by Charles Esche again focused on collectives, such as ruangrupa itself, who now directs documenta fifteen, but also Bolivian Mujeres Creando, Russian Chto Delat or Argentinean Etcetera and the Brazilian Contrafilé Group.

ruangrupa cura a documenta quinze
ruangrupa, 2019. Photo: Jin Panji

It is ironic that this growth of collectives has emerged during the phenomenon of the expansion of art fairs which, due to its essentially commercial profile, brought back a somewhat fetishistic character of the artist and his work, in addition to elevating the figure of the collector as the main legitimator of the circuit – only what sells should be considered.

As a sort of antidote to this system, which had already shown decay for some years, these collectives sought new practices, often far from fairs and collectors’ homes. They are either in institutions or universities, such as Forensic Architecture, based on the Goldsmiths of the University of London, which, incidentally, was nominated for the Turner in 2018, or they are just informal groups of artists, such as #coleraalegria, in Brazil, who have been contributing to relevant political manifestations with the creation of innovative visual material, far from the serious clichés of conventional militancy, in addition to having a strong presence in social networks.

Not by chance, in his recent book What Comes After Farce, American critic Hal Foster points out that many artists have been working on the key of “reconstruction”, that is, they are looking for systems that serve as alternative possibilities to the collapsing world.
The case of #coleraalegria is exemplary, because it is a grouping of militancy, where each one continues with their individual work, but in the collective there is an energy that is multiplied by singularities.

Thus, contrary to what is conventionally stated that documenta sets trends, the next edition of the event will enshrine practices under construction for more than two decades, which are repositioning the arts system.

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