World’s growing “uncertainty” staged soon at the SP Biennial with some visual and sexual doubts

Maria do Carmo de Pontes

A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of uncertainty. 2016 may enter history not just because of the Brexit, but also as the year the US elected a president who intends to build a wall with its Mexican border and Brazil impeached an elected president in a highly controversial process. Or not. Amid this turmoil, it is fitting that the curatorship of the next Sao Paulo Biennial – due to open in September – has chosen to embrace that which is unknown, in motion and urgent as it’s guiding axes. Titled Live Uncertainty, the event is being curated by Jochen Volz with the assistance of co-curators Gabi Ngcobo, Júlia Rebouças, Lars Bang Larsen and Sofía Olascoaga. After a comprehensive process of field trips and research, they arrived at the final list of participants, composed by eighty-one artists and collectives from several geographies. There is a remarkable feminine presence in the list – over half of the artists included – which, even today, is an unusual fact. Rebouças explains that this choice was part of ‘a natural process, considering the values that we stand for. We all knew that it’s easier to think of male artists – they are the majority in galleries, exhibitions and even collections – so we very naturally asked ourselves, “where are the women? Which of them are dealing with these subjects?”. It was not about ticking boxes or making concessions, but something that happened rather organically’.


Among the featured artists are Ana Mazzei and Luiz Roque, both of whom are young Sao Paulo based practitioners who will be taking part in the city’s biennial for the first time. Roque – who will show a film set in a dystopian future, where the official state controls our bodies – speaks of the impact that participating in such event has in the career of an emerging artist, ‘for sure, the recognition (that it brings) is very important, but for me I think that the most powerful thing on a biennial is the possibility to communicate with a larger audience, specially with the youngsters. I’d love to be in the head of a child and maybe in the future something in my work could make a difference to them, somehow’. Mazzei is more pragmatic, ‘I think that participating in an exhibition like this impacts mainly the physical dimension of the work – at least in my case’. She will be showing a sculptural work titled Spectacle, whose starting point is ‘the idea of what is offered to look at’. The artist explains further, ‘the word “spectacle” is a generic term that applies to the visible part of the representation and other activities which involve public participation, even if such participation is only bound to look. The main material used is wood of various kinds, and it has a constructive process closely linked to studio work, so while it is done, it can undergo changes’. As of roughly seventy-five percent of the art that will be on show, these two works are new commissions. Rebouças explains that, having the exhibition’s motto in mind, the eighty-one artists were selected for their understanding of ‘uncertainty as our condition. Rather than illustrating an idea, we were interested in artists who accomplish this idea. Artists who confront uncertainty, but also harbour it’. Mazzei tell us how she perceives the link between her practice and the ideas at the heart of the biennial, ‘I see uncertainty as something or a situation where you cannot predict exactly the result of an action or the effect of a condition. You can also refer to the degree of uncertainty of physical measurements or just the unknown. What I try to do as an artist is often marked by a certain incompleteness, which doesn’t need to be completed… However, I believe that the relations of conceptual approach are given from the understanding of my work process, which is basically a disorder’. Here is Roque who gives a more pragmatic input, ‘as I’m working with the transgender community, I could say that uncertainty is something inner to the project. There is a part of the society which, still today, sees a trans-woman, for example, with visual and sexual doubts’

July 4, 2016