The 31st Bienal de São Paulo “Things that don’t exist” is a poetic invocation of art’s ability to create new objects, thoughts and possibilities. The sentence has a variable formula that constantly changes, anticipating the actions that might make present in contemporary life the things that don’t exist, are not recognized, or have not yet been invented. With 81 projects and more than 100 participants from 34 countries, totaling around 250 artworks on display, the exhibition has been conceived as journey through the Pavilion divided into three different areas: park area, ramp area and columns area.
The ground floor is called the Park (Area A), and is opened up to the surrounding landscape and the different users of Ibirapuera Park, to become a space for perfomances, saraus and all the activities of the discursive Programme in Time (please check schedule for details). The Ramp (Area B1, B2 and B3) adapts to the verticality and the circulation of the pavilion’s main access route to create a series of curvaceous spaces linked by a monumental spiral. Here, the artworks and projects are shown without enclosing rooms, and are related to each other both vertically and horizontally. The Columns (Area C)articulates the largest continuous space of the pavilion on the second floor, dividing it into areas of light and shadow through which the integrity of different projects is emphasised.
Along the journey, visitors will encounter projects that are grounded in contemporary life and particularly touch on aspects of religion, social conflict, sexuality, ecology, and identity. “In the 31st Bienal, we have tried to bring together artists that tackle the complexities of today when the end of the modern meets the still uncertain beginnings of a new system of thinking”, suggests the curatorial team. “In this transitional time, artists no longer need to claim a special area of skill or knowledge. They are, like many others, searching for a new ethics and mode of existing by which to order their lives and contribute to society.”
Therefore the aesthetic criteria of modernism and the striving towards progress are not prominent in the 31st Bienal. This approach to the recent past means that a different hierarchy of sources and inspirations can be established, one that recognizes the possibilities of the pre-modern and the non-modern today and embraces the spiritual and popular culture to offer different readings of contemporary conditions. It also means that the influence of collective imagination, social activism and political conflict is as significant as the heritage of artistic practice to the artists in the 31st Bienal.
The use of the word ‘project’ is intended to create a distance from the traditional idea of an autonomous artwork made in a studio by an artist and look at the network of connections with contemporary cultural practices and disciplines. The term also serves to encourage collaboration and trans-disciplinary ways of working amongst the Bienal participants. More than half the projects have been made specifically for this exhibition, many by international artists who have produced work in response to a residency in the city and the opportunity to travel further in Brazil.
Projects and participants: Agnieszka Piksa • It’s Just the Spin of Inner Life , Alejandra Riera and UEINZZ MUTE OHPERA , Ana Lira • Vote!, Anna Boghiguian • Cities by the River, Archivo F.X. / Pedro G. Romero • The Modern School, Armando Queiroz with Almires Martins and Marcelo Rodrigues • Ymá Nhandehetama , Arthur Scovino • House of Caboclo, Asger Jorn • 10,000 Years of Nordic Folk Art, Asier Mendizabal • Agoramaquia (The Exact Case of the Statue), Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme • The Incidental Insurgents, Bik Van der Pol • Turning a Blind Eye, Bruno Pacheco • Meeting Point and other works, Chto Delat • The Excluded. In a moment of danger, Clara Ianni and Débora Maria da Silva • Plea
Dan Perjovschi • Wall, Work, Workshop. The São Paulo Drawing, Danica Dakić • Heaven / El Dorado / Vila Maria , Éder Oliveira • Untitled, Edward Krasiński • Spear and other works, El Hadji Sy • Marine Archaeology, Erick Beltrán • Double Goer, Etcétera… and León Ferrari • Erring from God, Gabriel Mascaro • It Is Not About Shoes, Giuseppe Campuzano • Life’s Timeline / Transvestite Museum of Peru, Graziela Kunsch • Fare Free Bus • with Lilian L’Abbate Kelian Urbânia 5 Magazine, Gülsün Karamustafa • Illustrated History / The Settler, Halil Altındere • Wonderland Hudinilson Jr. • Tension Zone, Imogen Stidworthy • Balayer – A Map of Sweeping, Ines Doujak and John Barker • Loomshuttles, Warpaths, Jakob Jakobsen and María Berríos • The Revolution Must Be a School of Unfettered Thought, Jo Baer • In the Land of the Giants and other works, Johanna Calle • Imponderables / Perimeters, Jonas Staal • Nosso Lar, Brasília, Juan Carlos Romero • Violence, Juan Downey • The Abandoned Shabono / Video Trans Americas , Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa • Dead Letter, Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimarães • Captain Gervásio’s Family, Lázaro Saavedra • Under Pressure, Leigh Orpaz • Breakfast, Lia Perjovschi • A Research, Mapa Teatro – Laboratorio de artistas • The Uncounted: A Triptych, Mark Lewis • Invention, Marta Neves • No-Ideas, Michael Kessus Gedalyovich • The Name Giver / The Placebo Scroll, Mujeres Creando • Space to Abort, Nahum Zenil / Ocaña / Sergio Zevallos / Yeguas del Apocalipsis (Organized by Miguel A. López) • God is Queer, Nilbar Güreş • Open Phone Booth / Black Series / TrabZONE and other works, Nurit Sharett • Counting the Stars, Otobong Nkanga • Landversation, Prabhakar Pachpute • Dark Clouds of the Future, Qiu Zhijie • Map, Romy Pocztaruk • The Last Adventure, ruangrupa • RURU, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti and Grupo Contrafilé • Mujawara, Sheela Gowda • Those of Whom, Teatro da Vertigem • The Last Word Is the Penultimate One – 2, Teresa Lanceta • Bert Flint / Granada / Handira, Thiago Martins de Melo • Martyrdom,Tiago Borges and Yonamine • AfroUFO, Tony Chakar • One Hundred Thousand Solitudes / Of Other Worlds That Are in This One Val del Omar • Water-Mirror of Granada / Fire in Castile
Virginia de Medeiros • Sergio and Simone ,Vivian Suter • Untitled, Voluspa Jarpa • Learning Histories, Walid Raad • Letters to the Reader (1864, 1877, 1916, 1923), Wilhelm Sasnal • Capital , Yael Bartana • Hell, Yuri Firmeza • The Fortress / Nothing Is, Yochai Avrahami • Small World
Education is a way to understand every relationship – this conception is at the core of the 31st Bienal. Education started at the very beginning of the process, with the Bienal’s education team engaged in the initial stages of researching the artists’ projects, creating a relationship that has continued throughout the development of the exhibition.
Educational activities also included a series of “open meetings”, in which diverse groups of people were convoked in cities such as Belém, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Bogotá, Lima, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, Santiago, São Carlos, São Paulo or Sorocaba to discuss local urgencies and perspectives. Also the workshop “A Toolbox for Cultural Organisation” was organized in which sixteen young artists, curators, writers and educators have and are gathering for three weeks in January, May and October 2014 to think together how to intervene in and through culture in different times and places.
Education in the Bienal takes place on intimate and large scales; from one-to-one exchanges to group visits; from saraus, in which culture is made by anyone, to conferences, in which knowledge is shared with all those present. These moments occur with the same intended effect: the transformation of all those who come into contact with the 31st Bienal into something that they were not before.