34th Bienal de Sao Paulo opens its main exhibition
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34th Bienal de Sao Paulo opens its main exhibition
Installation view. © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

SAO PAULO.- The largest visual art event in Latin America, after a one-year postponement due to the pandemic, will open its main exhibition Faz escuro mas eu canto [Though it’s dark, still I sing] this Saturday, September 4, at 10am local time with more than one thousand works by 91 artists.

Extended by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show that is opening now has been readjusted to the times of pandemic, with strict protocols defined together with 9 de Julho Hospital, and a food court outside the Pavilion, in an open space. The curators are Jacopo Crivelli Visconti (chief curator), Paulo Miyada (adjunct curator), and Carla Zaccagnini, Francesco Stocchi and Ruth Estévez (guest curators). Visitation will run until December 5, always with free admission.

This edition, which begun in February 2020, has been unfolding in space and in time with both physical and online programming, and culminates now in the group show that occupies the entire Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, concomitantly with dozens of solo shows at partner institutions in the city of São Paulo.

From 4 September, more than 1100 works will be displayed at the pavilion in Parque Ibirapuera. Among this edition’s participating artists, there are representatives from all continents. There is a balanced distribution between women and men, and 4% of the artists identify themselves as non-binary. This edition will also have the largest representation of indigenous artists, with 9 participants from original peoples of different parts of the globe (approximately 10% of the total).

“Since the preliminary design for the 34th Bienal was drawn up, nearly three years ago, the dilated timeframe we had imagined for the Bienal became much more than a curatorial tool: it became part of each person’s life. And, for us, this dilated time echoed the desire to present not only the artworks and the artists, but also the process by which the exhibition was constructed. This led to the continuous and constantly reformulated effort of thinking and rethinking the exhibition publicly, ceaselessly talking about what we had planned – about what went ahead according to plan and about what became something else. Thus making it even clearer that it is not separate from the world, but a part of it,” – Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, chief curator of the 34th Bienal

“As one of the conceptual references of the 34th Bienal, the curatorship brought the idea of ‘relationship,’ which, roughly, is connected to how we need to completely understand the other in order for us to relate with them. Actually, the richness resides precisely in difference and diversity. The way in which more than 20 cultural institutions of São Paulo became aligned for the realisation of this edition of the Bienal, finding a way to create a programming that is consistent but not homogeneous – in other words, which maintains the identity of each and, nevertheless, shares elements in common – gives rise to a very important symbolic image for us.” – José Olympio da Veiga Pereira, President of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Artworks beyond the pavilion

With the aim of enlarging the dialogues established between the artworks and their contexts and the possible points of contact with the public, the 34th Bienal is presenting temporary interventions outside the Bienal Pavilion, in Ibirapuera Park, by artists Clara Ianni, Eleonora Fabião, Grace Passô, Jaider Esbell, Paulo Nazareth and Oscar Tuazon. “Just as what is seen inside the pavilion reverberates exhibitions that are related with different urban contexts, various of the show’s artworks coexist with the everyday life of the park, sometimes integrated with its landscape, sometimes reflecting its role as an iconic and symbolic space,” explains Paulo Miyada, adjunct curator of this edition of the event.

The sculptures of the Growth Rings series, by United States artist Oscar Tuazon (1975, Seattle, Washington, USA), were the first outdoor artworks to be installed, at the beginning of August, when the setting up of the main exhibition was still underway. Four wooden rings were distributed at different points in the park: one of them near the Bienal Pavilion’s side ramp, where it will remain until December 5, and the others near the lake and alongside the Museu Afro Brasil, one of the partner institutions of this edition of the Bienal. The diameter of each of the rings, between 4 and 5 meters, was defined by the artist based on the distance between the trees in Ibirapuera Park he chose to support the sculptures. On August 30, the three sculptures that were near the lake were moved into the Ciccilo Matarazzo Pavilion, where they will be on display until the close of the exhibition.

The work Outdoors, consisting of a series of nine large-format sculptures by Minas Gerais artist Paulo Nazareth (many dates, Watu Nak, Vale do Rio Doce, Minas Gerais, Brazil), inserts into the park nine large-scale representations of people who became examples of resistance and struggle against various oppressions that have marked this country: Aqualtune, Dinalva, João Cândido, José Campos Barreto and Carlos Lamarca, Juruna, Maria Beatriz Nascimento, Marighella, Marielle Franco, and Teresa de Benguela. The sculptures were produced in wood covered with aluminum sheeting, and attached to metallic structures on concrete bases. Positioned at different points in Ibirapuera Park, near the circulation paths, the various sized pieces can reach as high as 11 meters.

The indigenous artist, writer and cultural producer from the Makuxi ethnicity Jaider Esbell (1979, Normandia, Roraima, Brazil) presents, near the fountains in the lake, a large-scale installation composed of two inflatable objects in the shape of a snake, printed in vibrant colors and with internal lighting, measuring approximately 10 meters long each. In the indigenous shamanism, the snake is considered a “power animal” and is present as a force for cure, regeneration and transformation.

The intervention Derrubada, by Clara Ianni (1987, São Paulo, Brazil), consists of an installation created on the basis of the flagpoles of Bandeiras Square, adjacent to the Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion, where the flags of countries participating the show were flown at the time when the Bienal was composed of national representations (a model extinct since the 27th edition, in 2006). For the show, the artist proposed the creation of a temporary and highly symbolic situation, through the felling of the flagpoles and the rearrangement of these objects lying on the ground, in a position perpendicular to the Bienal pavilion. The restoration and reinstallation of the flagpoles, at the end of the show, will end the movement proposed for the work.

For its part, the project by Eleonora Fabião (1968, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), titled nós aqui, entre o céu e a terra, is based on a collaboration with 26 public institutions in the city, located within a 5 km radius from the Ibirapuera Park. Between September 8 and 16, there will be a performance in which chairs from those institutions (from the sectors of health, education and culture) will be brought through the streets of the city, suspended on bamboo stalks, to the Bienal pavilion, where they will remain on display until the close of the show. The bamboo stalks used in the performance will remain buried during the months of the Bienal’s run in the park, at points determined by a graphic intervention used by the artist on an aerial photograph of Ibirapuera. At the end of the show, the chairs will be returned, but exchanged: no institution will receive its original chair.

Last but not least, Grace Passô (1980, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil), debuting at the Bienal de São Paulo, proposes the installation of a rádio de poste [“post radio” – a communication medium consisting of content broadcast to a community by loudspeakers on posts] in the area outside the Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion. A practice often seen in small cities, especially in Brazil’s northeast region, the rádios de poste are alternative mechanisms for the circulation of information of public interest. The programming of the radio will be conceived by the artist and can be heard both inside and outside the exhibition.


One of the central elements of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo’s curatorial conception is the existence of 14 statements, elements that possess striking stories, able to suggest readings of the works around them. The curatorship resorts to these items as a way of seeking a language able to delineate the fields of force created by the encounter of artworks produced in different places and at different times without, however, limiting the readings to specific themes or concepts. Among the statements, the visitor will find a number of very diverse material and symbolic objects.

The first statement to be found by the visitor, on the ground floor, consists of three objects belonging to the collection of the Museu Nacional, which survived the fire that destroyed it and the vast majority of its holdings. These objects are: the Santa Luzia meteorite, which, tempered by its journey through outer space and by the temperature it reached upon entering the earth’s atmosphere, remains unscathed; an amethyst (a sort of purple quartz) which, after spending a long time at a very high temperature, transformed into the color of citrine (a yellow quartz): and a ritxòkò, a doll that was donated to the Museu Nacional after the fire by Kaimote Kamayurá, of the Karajá de Hawaló village, on Bananal Island (TO), to substitute one that had been destroyed by the flames, to help reconstitute the collection. Reunited, these three objects show us how resisting can take various forms.

Another statement is composed by a series of 120 portraits of Frederick Douglass (USA, 1818 – 1895). The son of a black female slave and a man who was most likely white, but whom he never met, he is considered to be the most photographed person in the United States during the 19th century. Douglass was a public man, a journalist, writer and orator, and a key figure in the struggle for the abolition of slavery. Aware of the importance of the circulation of a positive and non stereotyped image of black people, he strove for his portraits to enter into the flow of the circulation of newspapers, as well as in private spaces around the country, and until today they circulate around the world as a symbol of justice and resistance.

Two of the other statements could be viewed by the visitors of the exhibition Wind, held on November 2020: The Bell from Ouro Preto and the Tikmũ’ũn Songs. The other 10 statements integrating the exhibition are: A ronda da morte, by Hélio Oiticica; Notebooks by Carolina Maria de Jesus; Two Embroideries by João Cândido; Letters from Joel Rufino to his son; Cut/Relation in Antonin Artaud and Édouard Glissant; The Engraved Image of Coatlicue; Paulo Freire ‒ Circles; Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais; The Dedication from Constantin Brancusi; and Cerâmica Paulista.

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