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architectourism ISSN 1982-9930

Rampa do Pavilhão da Bienal de São Paulo. Foto Victor Hugo Mori


A 31ª Bienal de São Paulo (de setembro a dezembro de 2014) coloca para si o desafio de intervenção na realidade através da escolha de trabalhos que apontam para novas formas de organização, produção e participação enquanto práticas artísticas e políticas.

The 31st São Paulo Art Biennial (from september to december 2014) sets itself the challenge of intervention in reality by choosing works that point to new forms of organization, pruduction and participation as artistic and political practices

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SCHIAVO, Bruno. Things that do not exist. The limits between art and non-art in São Paulo's 31st Biennial. Arquiteturismo, São Paulo, year 08, n. 090.03, Vitruvius, aug. 2014 <>.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

It’s hard to explain the Biennale building in São Paulo. To step back the necessary distance for its framing would take the flight of a bird; it’s possible, however, to explore it’s internal limits, maybe simulate, with the hands between the face and the dark glass, a chamber that aligns the gaze and lessens the reflex. Inside, people operate numerous instruments; some send sparks flying from different heights, the various scaffoldings they use to work never touching each other or the ground. This mechanical landscape in the other side of the glass, that’s almost as a silent film, whoever crosses with small steps the infinite room makes it for the sole act in itself; if he uses a door to enter, he shall use another one to go out in the opposite side. Every movement made in this workshop is circular, coincide in the assembly and disassembly of never ending fairs and everything-goes expositions, from trucks to books, models to plane parts, computers and fertilizers, plastic pools or soldering equipment, birds and works of art. A world in itself, even more visible while lost among the greenery of the park: this is its neutral point in time, connecting the preexisting to what is to come.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

Entering the building during this period dispels this imaginary, distant vision, to the point where the same elements from before are now connected to a great orchestration of accidents and imminences – the next thunderclap always in standby. The depth in which the sound flourishes gives the dimension of its space; and each sound reveals the physical quality that some gesture, either fortuitous or intentional, has found. The actions regain their objectives in the familiarity, looking, discussing, answering the phone or carrying screens to and fro. It’s the exact opposite of the post-party falloff, but not exactly of the party itself. There are accidental noises and persevering noises. It’s an ambience where the conflagration between the lost echoes and the alarms are imminent. The time gains an emergency feature: there are but a few days left until the opening.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

Chosen as the curator of the São Paulos’ 31thBiennale, the Scottish Charles Esche has invited the Spanish Nuria Enguita Mayo and Pablo Lafuente, and the Israeli Galit Eilat and Oren Sagiv to bear along the tasks involving its making, which is one of the most important of the periodic art events in the world, alongside the Venice Biennale and the Kassel Documenta. His approach of the curatorship practice – that determinates its activity together with the public and the institutional processes that he takes part as the responsible for the Afterall publisher and director of the Van Abbemuseum, in Eindhoven, Holland – have as value the objective of a social change through the art. Sharing a house in São Paulo, the foreign team has Luiza Proença and Benjamin Seroussi, that started making part of the crew, and also the standing teams of the Foundation – educative, communication and Biennale Archives –, focused on the prospect of the city regarding the happening, that usually brings along a wide, up-to-date, summary of the production and, quite often, one or two quarrels. They seek to draw a generous conceptual picture to accommodate the plurality of the public, encouraging flexible ways of interaction, and established contact with the specific socio-cultural configurations of various cities of Brazil, promoting open conversations and encounters in those places. “The objective of those encounters is to inquire about the local demands, instead of establishing the doctrine of either the Biennale or the curatorship”, said Pablo Lafuente in one of the encounters of the called Laboratório de Gestão – Processos e Ferramentas (in English, “Management Laboratory – Processes and Tools”) (1).

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

The curatorship is sensitive to the en course transformations of the world – in the work fields, behavior, art, etc. – and he finds that the new means of participating, producing and organizing are not yet evident, affirming the power of investigation of the work of art and, therefore, it’s role of intervention in the fabric of reality (2). It puts in evidence the individuals’ desire of sharing the management processes, the political processes, having accompanied up close all the peculiarities and shortcomings of the public sphere in São Paulo, the territorial blockage to the city outskirts, the exclusion of a great part of the population to the benefits of the infrastructure, of the services and cultural goods, and the isolation of the very Parque do Ibirapuera (3). The problem with the portrayal can be seen in a wide sense: “The 31thBiennale is being conducted in a time scarred by the political representation crisis. The protests and the ‘rolezinhos’ [meetings at high-class shopping centers organized by poor, marginalized teens], for instance, demand new ways of public relations and new structures in the cultural production” (4). Regarding the popular demonstrations, which peaked in 2013s July, Charles Esche says: “how to keep our plurality, these demands that in truth are always liquid, how not to organize those in a single party or movement? (...) Not that it needs to be put in that particular way, but it’s more of a question to make and less of an answer or a demand what’s present in those protests” (5). Art and politics share nowadays more and more intensively of the same semiosphere, of the same information web, passive of contaminations and unexpected crossings. The São Paulo Biennale always suffered pressure, be it for spot specific questions, be it for it’s surprising permanence in a culture scared by the discontinuity. It’s possible that it’s reasoning have never been as far from the conceptual pictures of the art critics. The expansion of its legitimacy space to a symbolic, more fluctuating field places the problems of social engagement and of the artistic practice in a shared perspective that begs for the reformulation of social roles and arrangements.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

Since the 29th, the standing project of the Educativo Bienal organizes activities related to the expositions, but that goes beyond their active periods and their locations, having bounded with schools and communities all over the country. In continuous activity, it could achieve a main role really close to the curatorship, influencing both the list of invited artists and it’s general reasoning. The Caixa de Ferramentas (“Tool Box”, in English), the material given by the educational sector to schools, communities and to the press shows this proximity of point of views of the opening to the comprehension of the other and the experimentation. The tools are material and/or conceptual devices of stimuli for the interaction with the works and projects and as well of development of their ways in front of the world. Those activities have as a parameter the pedagogical approach of the Escola sem Muros (“School without Walls”, in English), that puts on the table the ethics of the collectivity by means of discussions held in small groups, which will then help the team face the practical problem that is the preparation of guided visits for countless of school classes, to handle the children and teenagers and to build new modalities for enjoyment along with those whose repertoire is not one of institutionalized art. The synergy between the curatorship and the educational enlarges the focus in the called active users instead of the usual over caring for details and segregation that permeates the artistic field. How to (...) things that do not exist, ellipsis that could be exchanged by talk about, fight for, learn with, imagine, think over and so on, is the actual name of the Biennale, and the lenses created to approach it demonstrate evident differences between the ways followed by former Biennials.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

The most important principles established by the curatorship, at the same time open to all and linked, reveals permeability. The artists’ physical place as a conception unity is shifted and it’s insertion among other creators is favored – and from there comes the notion of projects instead of works –, quite often as resistance to the social discrepancies and oppression. The operating methods, strategies, actions, the way of materialize and communicate their permanent processes are the most important part: “[They are] people who work with people who, in turn, work in collaborative projects with other individuals and groups, in relationships that must continue to develop throughout it’s duration and maybe even after their ending” (7). The program also connects the imagination to the notions of conflict and of transformation, understanding art as a “disruptive force”, creator of “situations in which the rejected can become accepted and appreciated. The transformation can be understood as transgression, transmutation, transcendence, transgender and other ephemeral ideas that go against the imposition of a single, absolute truth (...). It [the turning point] seems to be trying to get out of the parameters established in order to give room to the complexity and to the flexibility, without fear of conflicts (...). The dynamics generated by those conflicts point to the need of thinking and acting collectively, which is more powerful and inspiring than the individualist logic that is usually imposed upon us” (8).

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo

This turning point, as the curators call it, will be manifest in the chosen projects, which encompass existential, spiritual questions, as gender changes, religious conversions or oppositions of the ideological manipulation of the regular media, using other medias as a way of reversing this paradigm. Most of the works don’t try to be self-contained or to show any resolution; they bring topics from their original contexts and the involved researches, which go through the sciences (anthropology, sociology, biology, ethnography), through archives, through what brings evidence of it’s historicity. The Biennale will provide a social dynamic based of the shared imagination to the transformation of the state of things. In a particular way, it will bring back a long-discussed problem, including in some former editions of the Biennale, and important both to the artists and to the public: the limits between the art and non-art, not failing to demonstrate some contempt by the dichotomy in itself. The emphasis in bringing together the items and subjects of the culture and their means of circulation in name of the grounds of the process and the collectivity brings expectations regarding the whereabouts of the resistance of the form, that keeps on asking for some critic reflexivity. Similarly to this, given the discursive, many times documental character of some of the works, the arrangement of the suggested notions keeps on causing some anxiety – collectiveness, process, conflict, imagination, action and indetermination, for instance –, as sensitive attributes, active in the open spaces of the building, or representations of such. The ground floor will remain open, and certainly will reverberate the emptiness, the scarcity, the unpredictable and the tensions between the various scales from which our public is comprised.

31ª Bienal de São Paulo, assembly
Foto Bruno Schiavo


EN - I thank the contributions from Nuria Enguita Mayo, Julia Bolliger Murari, Benjamin Seroussi and Charles Esche.

LAFUENTE, Pablo. Apud EDUCATIVO BIENAL. Seminário Laboratório de Gestão: processos e ferramentas. São Paulo, Blog Educativo, 30 jun. 2014 <>. Acessado em 22 de agosto de 2014.

SEROUSSI, Benjamin; ESCHE, Charles; EILAT, Galit; PROENÇA, Luiza; ENGUITA MAYO, Nuria; SAGIV, Oren; LAFUENTE, Pablo. Trabalhando com coisas que não existem. In Catálogo da 31ª Bienal de São Paulo (“Livro”), São Paulo, Fundação Bienal, p. 52-57.

NOBRE, Ligia. A cidade e seus espaços: múltiplas mediações. São Paulo, Website Oficial 31a Bienal de São Paulo, 28 maio 2014 <>. Acessado em 22 de agosto de 2014.

LAFUENTE, Pablo. Op. cit.

MENEZES, Caroline; ESCHE, Charles. How to be Contemporary? An interview with curator Charles Esche. Nova York, Studio International – Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, 05 set. 2013 <>. Acessado em 22 de agosto de 2014.

SEROUSSI, Benjamin; ESCHE, Charles; EILAT, Galit; PROENÇA, Luiza; ENGUITA MAYO, Nuria; SAGIV, Oren; LAFUENTE, Pablo. Introdução. São Paulo, Website Oficial 31a Bienal de São Paulo, s/d <>. Acessado em 22 de agosto de 2014.

Idem, ibidem.

Idem, ibidem.

about the author

Bruno Schiavo is architect, postgraduate student in FAU USP, and editor´s assistant at Vitruvius.


090.03 31ª bienal de sp
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original: português

others: english



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