How to ( … ) things that Don’t Exist

FIFA’s over but there’s more to Brazil than football! Sneha Shah explores the development of the 31st São Paolo Biennial.

Panning a little to the west of Rio de Janeiro, where Germany championed triumphantly at the FIFA 2014 World Cup Finals, the 31st São Paulo Biennale is shaping up for its early September vernissage. Whilst the home team had a terrible defeat, all my fellow Brazilian supporters will be happy to know that Brazil is appearing pretty strong on the art and culture front. For those new to it, the São Paulo Biennale is South America’s largest contemporary art survey, and the second oldest biennial in the world (1951) after Venice’s (1851). Promoting international involvement right from its initiation the Biennale has been instrumental in making Brazil an international centre for contemporary art and establishing a market for Brazilian art globally.

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012) Credit: Artinfo

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012)
Source: Artinfo

Like its Venetian counterpart, the São Paulo Biennale Foundation invites a team of curators to conceptualize the event. Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente and Oren Sagiv, along with associate curators Benjamin Seroussi and Luiza Proença, will be developing this year’s edition. Focusing on educative collaboration, questioning the definition of ‘art’ today, and eliminating formal hierarchies between artist, participant, viewer and user, the curators have decided to replace  genre-specific ‘artworks’ with the more generic term ‘projects’.

Inviting educators, sociologists, architects along with artists and performers to participate, the projects will be unresolved and exploratory; their unscrambling will sustain from the experiences and active involvement of individuals within the event. The curators urge “This is not a Bienal built on art and objects, but on people working with people on projects; on collaborations between individuals and groups; on relationships that should continue and develop throughout and, perhaps, even after the 31st Bienal is over,” on the official biennial website.

Official poster design by  participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute Credits: The Biennial

Official poster design by participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute
Source: The Biennial

Themed “How to (…) things that don’t exist”, with the ellipses interchangeable with verbs “feel”, “talk about”, “struggle with”, “use”, “read”, etc. the projects will reflect on subjects that seem to fall out of commonly accepted beliefs, frames of thinking and doing. Influenced or censored by expectations of immediate society, country, or world at large, human concerns, acts and understanding often materialize as emotions, injustices and struggles we feel we can’t surpass. The participating artists began their journey by ‘talking about’ these distresses, later moving onto ‘living with’ them as part of a 2-8 week residency within São Paolo and Brazil at large. ‘Using’, ‘struggling against’ and ‘learning from’ their experiences, the 75 collaborators will echo the optimism and possibilities of art today, challenging the capacity of the arts in its ability to reflect and act upon these ideals, beliefs, and societal concerns at the 31st São Paulo Biennial.

The biennial will open its doors on September 6th in the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion. This year the pavilion has been divided in three architectural zones: the Park, Ramp and Columns, providing three distinctly different environments for viewers to encounter this artistic development and discourse.

The Park Credits: 31ABienal

The Park
Source: 31ABienal

The Ramp Credits: 31ABienal

The Ramp
Source: 31ABienal

The Columns Credits: 31ABienal

The Columns
Source: 31ABienal

That said, the participants have their work cut out for them and I for one cannot wait to see their creations! So don’t stray away from Brazil just yet, and stay tuned for more updates on the 31st São Paulo Biennial

Gigi Scaria Finds Meaning in Endless Landscapes

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses Gigi Scaria’s new exhibition in Melbourne.

New York: Kothanalloor-based artist Gigi Scaria is currently presenting his exhibition “Dust” at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne. The works included were created specifically for the Ian Potter Museum and take the artist on new levels of his craft. Scaria focuses on the desolate desert of India’s border with Pakistan. This is a controversial, but primarily empty and fruitless geographic space.

Prior to the exhibition Scaria traveled to the Thar Desert and found the beautiful nuances of this natural wasteland for his photographs. The desert terrain turned out to have more to offer than simply dust and sand manipulated by the wind. Salt marshes, small patches of plant life and various mineral formations presented themselves. The artist utilizes the non-descript quality of this space, elements of this environment have a universal quality. It is not innately obvious in his photographs where this land is; it could be in any country or perhaps be the remote terrain of another planet. Scaria’s utilization of these spaces is centered on his belief that non-identifiable spaces will leave room for the engagement of viewers. While only leaving hints of a physical space the works offers opportunity for true memories and fantasy. Scaria’s work not only brings a viewer into this remote geographical space but also prompts meaning and emotions to animate the endless landscape.

“Dust” includes three levels of video, photography and installation work. Although this type of work is a bit of an offshoot from his typical technique, his artist process is present in the way he honors the original image yet manipulates it ever so slightly for the viewer. Prior to this exhibition he was one of the five artists to represent India in the Venice Biennale in 2011. He was also a 2012 University of Melbourne MacGeorge Fellow. “Dust” will be at the Ian Potter Museum of Art well into the new year, wrapping up on March 16th. Art enthusiasts in visiting Melbourne in the coming months should definitely experience Scaria’s “Dust”. For more information please visit the Ian Potter Museum website. 

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