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29th Sao Paulo Biennial Opens in Brazil
A man looks at an art installation by Douglas Gordon of Scotland at the 29th Sao Paulo International Biennial. Some 159 artists from 39 countries are exhibiting their artworks at the biennial, carrying the theme "There is always a cup of sea to sail in a line", according to the press release. The exhibition runs till December 12. REUTERS/Nacho Doce.

SAO PAULO.- Organized by Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, the 29th edition of the São Paulo Biennial is rooted in the idea that it is impossible to separate art from politics. By procedures and means that are distinctive to it, art constantly questions and interrupts the sensorial coordinates by which one perceives and inhabits the world, thus inserting themes, subjects and attitudes that did not fit there before.

This curatorial platform takes into account two related facts. Firstly, the evidence that, as traditional paradigms of sociability (at both local and global level) have been called into question in the last few decades, art has affirmed itself as a privileged medium for both apprehending and reinventing reality. Secondly, the recognition that this process has brought art and politics together to the point of almost non-distinction, thus underscoring the urgent need to emphasize the difference between art and other realms of knowledge.

The exhibition’s title, There is always a cup of sea to sail in – a line taken from Brazilian poet Jorge de Lima’s major work Invenção de Orfeu [The invention of Orpheus] (1952) –, sums up the primary objective pursued by the 29th São Paulo Biennial: to assert that the utopian dimension of art is to be found in art itself, rather than in what lies outside or beyond it. This “cup of sea,” this infinity close at hand which artists relentlessly produce, is what provides the power to move forward in spite of all adversity.

As a space for the reverberation of this commitment in many of its forms, the exhibition will enable visitors to think about and experience the world beyond the consensuses that organize it and keep it a small place, one in which not everything or everyone can fit in. The exhibition will put the visitor in contact with the politics of art.

The 29th São Paulo Biennial is therefore intended to celebrate art-making while also asserting art’s responsibility towards life; to unsettle the senses at the same time as it generates knowledge not found anywhere else; to draw visitors into the irreducible experience artworks offer, as well as stressing their ability to critically reflect the world they are inscribed within. Ultimately, the 29th São Paulo Biennial is intended to offer examples of how art weaves its own politics.

The exhibition displays works by 159 artists from all over the world selected by the curatorial team. The so-called national representations – a model adopted by the São Paulo Biennial until 2004 – have been definitively dismissed by the institution, as they do not convey the complex networks of cultural flows that characterize contemporary life either locally or globally. However, it is of the utmost importance for the 29th São Paulo Biennial to stress the place and time of its conception: Brazil, at a moment of rapid global geopolitical reorganization.

Tackling the challenges posed by the curatorial project involves more than just the choice of artists and works. Designed as a place where one can meet, talk, share and argue with the other, and where one can acquire knowledge whilst being challenged on one’s own values, the exhibition environment itself will echo the potency of politics as something that creates what is not given, or as something that makes conceivable what was once not even foreseeable.

In order to deal with such ambition, six spaces of conviviality will be built inside the São Paulo Biennial’s permanent site, Oscar Niemeyer’s 30,000 square-meter modernist pavilion located in Ibirapuera Park. Projected by guest artists and architects, these spaces will be used both as resting places along the exhibition path and as the venues for talks, lectures, screenings, performances, musical presentations, poetry readings, and (re)enactments of plays, among many other activities. Named Terreiros, these constructed territories will symbolically recall the spaces (mixes of squares, temples and backyards) where people in different parts of Brazil gather to celebrate, debate, sing, mourn, party, and practice the nation’s hybrid spirituality.

The curatorial project for the 29th São Paulo Biennial does not therefore exhaust itself in the presentation of an articulated set of works of art, even though this is clearly its core and main purpose. From the programming for each of the Terreiros, many questions will be raised and discussed evincing the deep and diverse presence of art in life. Between a cup of sea to sail in and a piece of land on which to gather, art asserts its politics.

Moreover, the 29th São Paulo Biennial will be limited neither to its main site nor to the exhibition dates, but will extend into different locations and start well in advance of the opening of the exhibition proper. Through an innovative educational program already underway in hundreds of schools in São Paulo and nearby cities, a project of residencies, workshops and talks for both artists and curators scheduled to run from March to December 2010 and an interactive website expected to go online in July, the 29th São Paulo Biennial has the ambition to be a multi-faceted and de-centered project in which art is nevertheless at all places and times affirmed as capable of changing the way one understands and occupies the world.

29th Sao Paulo Biennial | Fundação Bienal de São Paulo | Oscar Niemeyer |

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