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28th Bienal de Sao Paulo Exhibits Art by 42 Artists from 21 Countries
Spectators visit the installation One thousand eight hundred designs made by Allan McCollum at the 28th Bienal de Sao Paulo which opened today. Photo: EFE / Sebastião Moreira.

SAO PAULO.- The 28th Bienal de São Paulo proposes a different format from its previous editions, so as to offer a platform for observation and reflection upon the culture and system of biennials within the international art circuit. In order to do so it articulates exhibition, debate and dissemination strategies, taking its own experience as a case study, considering the deep changes that have taken place in the specific cultural context in which it is set (that of Brazil and Latin America) as well as those occurring in the world at large, because of the globalization of economic and cultural relationships, and the popularization of contemporary art trough exhibitions in museums, fairs and biennials. In this sense, the 28th Bienal has reduced the number of participating artists while diversifying activities in the exhibition space. It thus proposes a re-directioning in the model of seasonal shows, meeting the demands of artistic practices and of the political and cultural debate, and facing the disruptive maelstrom of the production of representations and interpretations that comprise the realm of visuality of today. Instead of trying to produce an all-encompassing and representative vision of the phenomenon of art today, its seems to be more important to sketch out specificities, and produce structural cartographies, setting in motion a process of investigative and critical, regular and systematic work that will keep pace with and productively account for movements and changes perceived within a given artistic circuit.

Since part of contemporary artistic practices are not restricted to the production of a single object to be contemplated in the same place and time, the 28th Bienal proposes a range of exhibition and dissemination apparatuses that can more specifically mediate contact between the audience and the production of knowledge in a collective event of such scope. This edition of the Bienal is therefore made up of the following components, spread out among the four floors of the pavilion:

The transformation of the ground floor of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion into a public square, as in Oscar Niemeyer’s original design for Ibirapuera Park in 1953, proposes a new relationship between the Bienal and its surroundings—the park, the city—opening itself up as the agora in the tradition of the Greek polis, a space for meetings, confrontations, frictions. This space will have an intense schedule for the six weeks of the event, and will host music and dance presentations, performances and cinema—always based upon proposals that will understand the “square” as a space for social interaction in the present—seeking to create energy to air the building, and consolidate the show as a temporary social space generating creative potential capable of permeating the artists as well as the audience gathered in its events.

Video lounge
Organized by a group of guest curators, this component connects what will be going on in the square with the realm of reflection and research on the third floor. It is made up of historic videos about the performances of the artists who are presenting on the ground floor, recordings carried out during the 28th Bienal (lectures, performances, workshops), as well as a themed program based on a reading of the work of participating artists. The Video lounge sets in motion the concept of history by bringing together material from different sources (i.e., existing documents and videos produced daily during the show) thus making up a vast video archive to be presented to the public in three different formats: in the Video lounge niches, on the first floor, alongside the services of the 28th Bienal (exhibition guides, information, cloakroom); the film and video program to be shown in the auditorium, and the video archive, both on the third floor.

Open Plan
Unlike earlier editions of the Bienal, which turned the entire inner space of the modernist pavilion into exhibition rooms, the second floor will this time be completely open, revealing its structure and offering visitors a physical experience of the building’s architecture. It is in this supposedly void territory that intuition and reason will find fertile soil to highlight the powers of imagination and invention. This is the space in which everything exists in a full and active process of becoming, thus creating the demand and the conditions for the search for other senses and new contents; “Open plan” refers to the concept created by Le Corbusier, in 1926, to define one of the five principles of the new architecture: with the use of pilotis and reinforced concrete, the walls were no longer used for supporting the floors of a building. These ideas were taken as basic principles for Brazilian modern architecture.

Plan of Readings
One of the objectives of the 28th Bienal is to draw attention to the Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo [Wanda Svevo Historical Archive], the greatest heritage of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, its memory, and the main source of references for any reflection and program that aims to assess and recycle the institution. The occupation of the third floor seeks to activate this history, which is always open to new readings and interpretations, allowing each one of its constituting elements to reveal its transforming potential in the present.

a. exhibition
The curatorial team has thus invited artists working on the borderline between reality and fiction, between the creation of documents and instituted truths, between personal memory and collective history, to develop and/or present projects that bring to light some aspects of the history of the Bienal de São Paulo, whether from a social, documentary, political or architectural perspective. In this sense, the construction of a more organic exhibition space, different from the traditional white cube, proposes an apparatus that demands an active positioning from the spectator, enabling readings and re-significations at each viewing, within an introspective setting – one that is closer to the time of the library and/or archive than to the time of major exhibitions and cultural industry.

b. library
In order to show the visiting audience the volume of information represented by over two hundred biennials, either currently under way or from the past, and to add specificity to the Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo, the project of the 28th Bienal engaged itself in a campaign to collect catalogs from the greatest possible number of biennials and periodical exhibitions around the world, to be presented in a library in the exhibition space. The video archive is an integral part of this library, providing visitors with recordings of events and conferences occurring during the 28th Bienal.

c. conferences
The platform of conferences, talks and panels plays a fundamental role among the components of the 28th Bienal: they are intended to feed the Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo with a systematic reflection upon issues raised by the project that concern the history and role of the Bienal de São Paulo today, as well as its exhibition model, which has proliferated around the world. The Bienal conferences platform has been under way since June this year, and is articulated into four major themes: 1) The Bienal de São Paulo and the Brazilian artistic milieu: memory and projection brings together oral accounts of the memories, judgments and expectations of professionals about the institution and its achievements; 2) Backstage brings together professionals responsible for governmental agencies and private organizations which provide most of the funding for the staging of periodical international exhibitions, promoting new forms in the policy of nationalities; 3) Biennials, biennials, biennials…, intends to organize, through the accounts of directors and curators, an inventory of types and categories of seasonal exhibitions, as well as its different objectives and modes of development; 4) History as a flexible matter: artistic practices and new systems of reading opens up a reflection on contemporary artistic practices which propose new systems of articulating projects and ideas in different time and space frames, creating specific tools of mediation between artistic and/or curatorial discourses and an interested audience. A series of talks with artists related somehow to the history of the Bienal de São Paulo is also part of this platform.

The São Paulo Biennial was founded in 1951 upon the initiative of industrialist Francisco (Ciccillo) Matarazzo Sobrinho (1898-1977). It is the second oldest art biennial in the world after Venice (in existence since 1895), which serves as its role model.

Its initial aim was to make contemporary art (primarily from Western Europe and the USA) known in Brazil, push the country's access to the current art scene in other metropolis, and establish Sao Paulo itself as an international art center. Naturally, the biennial always serves to bring Brazilian art closer to foreign guests.

Since the 4th edition in 1957, the São Paulo Biennial has been held at the Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo in the Parque do Ibirapuera. The pavilion was designed by a team lead by Oscar Niemeyer and Hélio Uchôa, and provides an exhibition space of 30,000 sqm.

As with its Venetian role model, São Paulo hosts national presentations as well as international exhibitions held under the direction of rotating chief curators.

In addition to the art biennial, an International Biennial for Architecture and Design has been held since 1973.

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