The Bienal de São Paulo readies for its grand opening on September 10 – December 11, 2016. The event was initiated in 1951 and is the second oldest art biennial in the world after the Venice Biennial, which was set up 1895 and served as its role model. The 32nd Bienal de São Paulo means to reflect on the current conditions of life and the strategies offered by contemporary art to harbor or inhabit uncertainty. The exhibition this time around will be held from September 10 to December 11, 2016 at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, featuring approximately 90 artists and collectives, 54 of which are announced here.
Titled Incerteza viva [Live Uncertainty], Curator: Jochen Volz says, “The 32nd Bienal de São Paulo will focus on notions of uncertainty to reflect on the current conditions of life and the strategies offered by contemporary art to harbor or inhabit uncertainties. The exhibition sets out to trace cosmological thinking, ambient and collective intelligence, and systemic and natural ecologies”.
In order to objectively confront the big questions of our time, such as global warming and its impact on our habitats, the extinction of species and the loss of biological and cultural diversity, economic and political instability, injustice in the distribution of the Earth’s natural resources and global migration, among others, perhaps it’s necessary to detach uncertainty from fear. Uncertainty is clearly connected to notions endemic to the body and the earth, with a viral quality in organisms and ecosystems. Though it is related to the word crisis, it is not equivalent to it. Uncertainty is, above all, a psychological condition linked to individual or collective decision-making processes, describing the understanding and non-understanding of concrete problems.
The notion of uncertainty is part of the repertoire of many disciplines – from mathematics to astronomy, and also including linguistics, biology, sociology, anthropology, history and education. Unlike what goes on in other fields, though, uncertainty in art points to disorder, taking into account ambiguity and contradiction. Art feeds off uncertainty, chance, improvisation, speculation and, at the same time, it attempts to count the uncountable and measure the immeasurable. It makes room for error, for doubt and even for ghosts and the most profound misgivings, without evading or manipulating them. Would it not make sense then to take art’s numerous methods of reasoning and making and apply them to other fields of public life?
Learning to live with uncertainty can teach us solutions. Understanding the significance of Live Uncertainty on a day-to-day basis means remaining aware of the fact that we exist immersed in an environment that is ruled by it. As such, we can propose other means of action in times of constant change. Discussing uncertainty requires an understanding of the diversity of knowledge, because describing the unknown always implies to interrogate what we take for granted as known. And yet it also means valuing scientific and symbolic codes as complementary rather than exclusionary. Art promotes an active exchange between people, recognizing uncertainties as guiding generative and constructive systems.
The Bienal de São Paulo was founded by the Italian-Brazilian industrialist Ciccillo Matarazzo (1898-1977). Since 1957, the Bienal de São Paulo has been held in the Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion in the Parque do Ibirapuera. The pavilion was designed by a team led by architects Oscar Niemeyer and Hélio Uchôa, and provides an exhibition space of 30,000 m2. The Bienal de São Paulo features both Brazilian and international artists, and is considered to be one of the most important art exhibits in the country.
In 1962 the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo was created, taking over the exhibition organization that, up until then, had been under the sucessful management of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, MAM-SP. The venue it occupies today came to house the biennials from its 4th edition onwards.
The Biennial’s initial aims are to make contemporary art known in Brazil, push the country’s access to the art scene in other metropolises and further establish São Paulo as an international art centre. The biennial serves to bring Brazilian art closer to an international audience, and vice-versa. The international exhibitions are held under the direction of rotating chief curators.
Curated by Jochen Volz along with co-curators Gabi Ngcobo (South Africa), Júlia Rebouças (Brazil), Lars Bang Larsen(Denmark) and Sofía Olascoaga (Mexico), the exhibition will be held from September 10 to December 11, 2016, at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, focusing on notions of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘entropy’ to reflect on the current conditions of life and the possibilities offered by contemporary art to harbor and inhabit uncertainties.
The result of an investigative process initiated in March of 2015, the final list presents a selection of participants from 33 countries characterized by a strong presence of artists born after 1970, women – who represent over half of the artists invited – and commissioned projects, produced for the context of the exhibition.
According to curator Jochen Volz, the artists in the 32nd Bienal provide strategies and speculations on how to live with uncertainty. ‘We are seeking to understand diversity, to look at the unknown and question what we assume to be known. We view the different knowledges of our world as complementary rather than exclusionary.’
Many of the works currently in development involve artistic residencies in the city of São Paulo and research travels in Brazil. To cite a few examples: Carla Filipe in partnership with the Instituto de Botânica de São Paulo [Botanical Institute of São Paulo] is developing a garden of edible plants, spontaneous plants and endangered plants; Iza Tarasewicz is studying the presence in Brazil of the Polish musical rhythm known as Mazurka; Dalton Paula visited three cities involved in the tobacco economy, and Pilar Quinteros traveled to Serra do Roncador, in Mato Grosso State, to follow the tracks of the explorer Percy Fawcett (1867-1925), who disappeared in the 1920s.
‘The proximity of the curators with the Fundação Bienal team, as well as the expansion of the institution’s partnerships, make the 32nd Bienal an especially fertile edition,’ says foundation president Luís Terepins. ‘So far, we are counting on the commitment of 48 partners, including companies, governmental agencies and cultural institutions. In addition, the Fundação Bienal has also strengthened its relationships with international organizations that support the arts. By the time the exhibition opens, we will have a considerably higher number of supporters than the recent editions of the Bienal, an asset from the foundation added to the curatorial work.’
For example, in recent months, partnerships with organizations from Chile, Ghana and Peru helped to enable the realization of the Study Days in Santiago (Chile), Acra (Ghana) and Lamas (Peru), with a strong impact on the development of the curatorial proposal. The fourth event will take place in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, from May 19th to the 22nd. An international seminar concatenating all Study Days will be held in São Paulo at the Fundação Bienal auditorium on June 10th and 11th.