all about the curatorial concept

ANTIPODES
Diverse and Reverse

DIVERSITY: BOUNDARIES CLOSE TOGETHER

 

Diversity is one of the most important distinctive characteristics of contemporary arts (as well as culture in general). Considered not as a theme, but as an approach, that which is diverse allows the undertaking of both the multiplicity of models and artistic-cultural agents and the plurality of territories, temporalities and means of expression that today make the artistic field complex and promote the expansion of its means.

Having rebutted the modern autonomy of art, contemporary thinking and sensibility promote the consideration of alternative aesthetics to the hegemonic western art model: the eruption of forms derived from indigenous and popular culture, as well as the significance conceded to art coming from regions with their own traditions, unrelated to European and North-American conceptions of art. The rupture of temporality in modern days fosters the presence of such different art regimes, not aligned to the evolutionary picture of western progress, generating anachronisms, setbacks and cuts in the different histories that propel said regimes.

On the other hand, rebuttal of modern order allows that art itself may be also considered in other expressions that overtake the visual arts field. As such, boundaries between audiovisual and literary get blurred, and plural spatial experiences are promoted. The outbreak of digital technology and globalizes cultural hegemony act as transversal forces agitating even more the previously orderly realms of art.

Such questions arise today in a panorama flooded by images; a scene ruled by instrumental market logic: advertising, spectacle, communication and entertainment. The profusion of images leads us to two intertwined questions that cross this biennial. The first one has to do with the possibilities of producing poetically dense images that also possess a critical and conceptual thread, going against the banal aestheticization that flood the field of view. The second, and a consequence of the previous question, takes on the fact that production of digital image is today superior to its capacity of reception and usage. Vision faces an unmeasured rise in visual information that exceeds the means in which it can be assimilated. Such excess, requiring aforementioned reflective and critical counterweights, demands the isolation of image from the stream of flaccid and transparent imagery, incapable of redefining meaning itself. Contemporary art takes on this situation by using several different strategies that surpass the scope of conventional photography and demand solutions going besides photography – what may be qualified as “expanded photography”, crossed by different techniques and based of varied conceptual reinforcements.

 

SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE WORLD

 

Diversity, as an expression of multiple differences that enrich the contemporary sociocultural horizon, occupies its central spot in public policies’ agenda; not only the ones that refer to the cultural space, but also – and most importantly – the environment, economics and social development. Strictly speaking of art, even though diversity may be recognized as an essential power, it has not been developed enough at biennial’s themes and is still available to mobilize works having to do with its fruitful concept.

The 2017 Curitiba Biennial adopts diversity as a theme as well as a reference point to activate questions and images without restricting the concepts or procedures employed by the artists. As such, the title doesn’t fixate a theme of motif: it points to a characteristic approach of present times seeking to generate synergy between works that are profoundly different, divergent in their very propositions.

The theme of this Biennial refers to different ideas on diversity, confrontation, antinomy and coincidence in a world map continuously polarized and simultaneously forced into globalized homogenization. The exhibits deal with the geographical and cultural difference between the Chinese Asian East and its antipode, Latin America’s Southern Cone, opposing sides of the planet. However, as any picture in the field of arts, antipodes become into a metaphor for uncountable connections between a number of countries, each with their own antipodes; ones that occupy an extreme position in relation to another. Metaphor, always slippery, also intends to oppose positions in the field of technique and diverse content, opposed or aligned between each other. The Biennial allows for the possibility of plotting different constellations between these worlds apart, distancing and approximating themselves, crossing and adjusting in different occasions and places.

The curatorial script of this Biennial articulates diverging expositive proposals. On the one hand, it has as an axis the different positions of Chinese and the Southern Latin-American Cone art, facing two exhibits at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum: Vibrations, that under the curatorship of Fang Zhenning and Liu Chunfeng displays Chinese contemporary art, and Beyond Photography, curated by Ticio Escobar, that gathers a set of Latin-American Southern Cone artists and bring the question of expanded photography. On the other hand, the script develops different exhibits that, around such axis, mobilize particular curatorial proposals.

Finally, the idea of diversity allows the Biennial to welcome the plurality of cultural expressions (theory, architecture, culinary, drawing, cinema, literature etc.), as well as the richness of citizen expression and the turning of the spotlight on the city of Curitiba itself. Contemporary diversity diagonally crosses these fields and disciplines, which articulations mobilize, in different rhythms, social signification processes. As such, the Biennial integrates a vast field of activities that, being under the responsibility of numerous actors and institutions, happen between poetic, aesthetic, academic, urban, civic and environmental.

The flexible nature of this Biennial allows for the coexistence of exhibits organized by the Curator-General along with other artists directly invited by the Biennial’s organization or exhibits related to citizenship initiatives. The exhibits include cultural exchange programmes and generational incentives. In this regard, two exhibits under the curatorship of Gabriela Ramos and Carolina Loch will be held, both awarded as 2017 Curitiba Biennial Young Curators. The first will be held at the Visual Arts Centre / Clay Museum of Paraguay, and the second at the Curitiba Museum of Photography. This Biennial also takes part in extension programmes through links with three International Biennials: BienalSur, Shanghai Biennial and Cafam Biennial.

This text references only actions and exhibits of visual arts correspondent to the invitations made by the Curator-General or the Biennial’s organization. Such restriction answers to the editorial criteria and does not have the intention to undermine other manifestations, to be presented in other sections of the general catalogue.

CARTOGRAPHY AND DIVERGENCE

 

Vibrations is the title of the contemporary art exhibit of China, this Biennial’s honored country. Such exhibit confronts Beyond photography¸ integrated by Latin-America’s Southern Cone artists; as such, the curatorship reinforces the position of extreme geographical points, diametrically opposed. This radical alterity is treated through a diversity-driven approach. Art has the capacity of creating bonds and plotting diagrams between the furthest cultures and places: image is quintessentially a device capable of uniting differing points, distant from each other, and then tracing with them different constellations of meaning. Contemporary diversity reinforces itself through the binding of zones, symbolic worlds and opposing situations that coincide without putting in risk their identities. Taking on diversity thus allows for resuming the idea of universality that, in contrast with globalization’s homogenizing tendency, feeds from the particular differences around confrontation axles, crossing and coincidence.
The Chinese art exhibit treats contemporary diversity not only through opposed cartographic positions, but also from a plurality of sensibilities and generational subcultures: the exhibit displays works of young artists that position themselves before the contemporary universal in tension with many local traditions and experiences.

THE EXPANSION OF IMAGE

 

If the exhibit Vibrations treats diversity from its meaning of cultural difference, Beyond photography comes from diversity rising from means of production and works, especially photography, that acquired a privileged presence in contemporary art’s panorama.

This exhibit has photography as a starting point, analyzing its conceptual, expressive, critical and poetical potentials, and even more so when crossed with other means. It may also come directly from other expressions that tend to cross photography and challenge its encapsulation.

As such, curatorship of this exhibit comes from the expanded image of photography, an idea that rebuts formalist autonomy fetishizing the technical mean. Criticism of such autonomy is one of the most notable characteristics of contemporary art, which is enriched with intersections and montages coming from different times and is propelled by contamination and expansionist movements. Artists taking part in Beyond photography transcend photographic procedure considered in its pure technical specificity and open other aesthetical and expressive means to interaction. They leave behind every fetishizing technical consideration in order to use image in complex ways, favoring proposition over means.

 

DIVERSITY OF GAZE

 

Under the curatorship of Marta Mestre (MON), the exhibit Song for my hands explores diversity in perceptions conditioned by nationality, sensibility and artists’ concepts, as well as the procedures utilizes in their works. The opposition between pairs: art/technique on one side, and abstract thought/manual labor on the other, allows for the Curator to work the materiality of the work in processes oscillating between artisanal and industrial, reflexive and sensorial.

Curator Massimo Scaringella presents the exhibit Antithesis Images Synthesis (MON/Curitiba Memorial). It uses Hegelian dialectics as a reference point in order to develop the plurality in positions of contemporary artists that mobilize actions and thoughts through creating energies and diverging memories. Both conceptual and poetical components cross the proposals of great contemporary questions, such as aesthetic perception, memory, the reality versus fiction conflict and the role of technique in daily life and the work’s production.

The exhibit Human dualities (MON), Art and Life (MAA) and Tao’s Flux (SEEC), curated by Luiz Carlos Brugnera, radicalize the antithesis movement, by which arise many dichotomies, such as inside/outside, war/peace, Earth/Mars, life/death, appearing/disappearing, black/white, to be/to be at, past/present, doubt/truth and eastern/western. Such antagonisms elicit an atmosphere of restlessness and refer to many means of conciliation that will never be completely resolved but, in their attempt for synthesis, mobilize a vast problem including matters of territories and frontiers, memory and body perception. Such dichotomies are inherent to human beings, which only possess the perception of a particular feeling or experience by means of the absence of its extreme.

And it is precisely on gazing a second time that it’s possible to comprehend the indivisibility of antitheses, for since they are contradictorily unequal they are complementary in the existence of each other, making them inexplicably perfect. The exhibits will be quite engaging, since the visitor by some mean will project their own experiences in the moment of observation, creating mishmash between life and art – encapsulating antithesis: reality and fantasy.

Curator Agnaldo Farías presents the exhibit Release (MON), which reflect on a key question of contemporary art: the relation between image and text. Artist Juliana Stain problematizes this relation relying on the idea of trace shared by photography and writing. The impossibility that one and other unite, though, creates a surplus and a shortage. Trace may register until a certain point, from which pure absence starts; a short-circuit is then generated in signification, a brief white space where lost words and images are glanced.

Under the curatorship of Tulio de Sagastizábal the vast photographic research of Guadalupe Miles (MON) is displayed, showing many moments of the Wixhi community of Santa Victoria Este, in Salta. The work comes from the bonds of the artists with Tiluk, who was a Shaman and community leader. Besides bringing the indigenous presence, indispensible component of American diversity, the exhibit brings different tensions faces by documental photography and work proposition, aesthetic and document, aura and digital, ethnography and art.

Curated by Ticio Escobar, Rodrigo Petrella’s exhibit (Solar do Barão) gathers photos taken in many native Amazonian villages. These works reach beyond photography for three reasons. In the first place because they mobilize aesthetic forms that by themselves shape up what we call “art” (plumes, body paintings, rituals, music, oral literature, choreography, theatrical representation). Furthermore, because the photographs, oscillating between documental and proper expression, end up not being as important as the testimonials of an objective reality, but as creators of images that suggest fleeting worlds, potent, impossible to register by a machine. Finally, since they transcend the order of registry and aesthetic expression, Petrella’s works act as a political appeal for diversity rights. Visualizing agents omitted from the social scene is, according to Rancière, the quintessential political gesture. This movement generates conflict in the plane of representation: an imbalance that becomes the source of all emancipatory demand.

Because the World must never lose its affections (Curitiba Memorial and Paranaense Museum) is the title of the exhibit curated by Dannys Montes de Oca and Royce Smith. According to them, this sentence refers to the fact that the processes of social signification are not based on harmonic agreements, but in turbulent tensions that keep causing disparities, intolerances and discrepancies. Instead of relieving such conflicts, technological excess exacerbates them, since it doesn’t belong in public policies conductive to dealing with diversity. However, through displayed works, the curatorship means to treat our antipodes (reason/emotion, local/global etc.), looking in their interstices the advent of “interesting times”, capable of maintaining the best reserves of human condition.
The Chinese arts exhibit curated by Zhang Zikand (MuMa) displays works from a new generation of artists from the country, belonging to a society more and more open to globalization and, simultaneously, still linked in many ways to their strong cultural tradition, heavy in history. The young artists audaciously explore many reinterpretations of the complex present given to them by the new world scenario, so that they may “feel the pulse of times and the resonance of the spirit”, as the curator poetically defines.

Fernando Ribeiro works in a curatorship of performance works that start from a photograph of the 2016’s murder of the Russian ambassador’s in Turkey. The curatorship follows the path of said photograph’s promotion in social media and deals with discussions about its artistic potential. The question is treated as performance art: image goes beyond photography, resulting in live art that, liked to daily practices, disturbs temporal chronologies and renews significations of the fact with a new focus on social and political perspectives.

Fanz Zhenning presents an exhibit of Chinese contemporary architecture (Palácio Iguaçu) with the intention of confronting what is produces in the Antipodes and building communication bridges between the eastern and western hemispheres. Besides, the exhibit means to promote cultural exchange and disseminate the vast Chinese experience in the field of contemporary architecture linked, still, to many projects that include urban development.
Opera hominum, works of José Rufino, is curated by Leonor Amarante (MON). The exhibit is made of 21 panels in which monotypes of factory workers’ hands are printed over collective pay slips. These dark stains constitute the archaeological testimony of a now ruined sugarcane factory, still full of life through the memories of its workers. This approach documents as art a particular experience of strong social and political content. As such, it faces one of the most complex challenges in contemporary art: bringing together aesthetics, narratives and strong concepts that occur farther from the range of pure form.

 

Tício Escobar
Curator