The São Paulo Bienal: Is it possible to live together?
An extract from a review by Carlos Jiminez Babelia in El Pais, Saturday October 14, loosely translated from Spanish by AltaVista Babelfish and Sue Williamson
The title of this edition of this Bienal, 'How to live together', taken from the title of a late seminar by Roland Barthes, is a simple one, yet incisive and disturbing. Simple, because taken as a criterion for the selection of 100 artists, it allows the inclusion of artists of very different cultures, intentions, aesthetic options and technical resources under one ceiling. 'We brought them together precisely because they are very different', says the curatorial team of Lissete Lagando and Rose Martinez. Thus, diversity, instead of a problem, is a virtue, emphasising as it does the pertinence of the question of how we can live together, now that we already know we are so different.
And one becomes totally in favour of a political declaration of peaceful co-existence. In the face of the ominous proliferation of wars and the enormous difficulties of living together on a planet which seems to get smaller all the time.
The Bienal de São Paulo, then, has the enormous merit of reminding us that around the enigma of art, a cosmopolitan community exists, that in spite of its radical differences is able to meet and offer a reasonable answer to the Barthesian question around the possibility of our co-existence. This cosmopolitanism does not ignore the limits or borders that, thanks to the passport of art, allow a passage with a facility denied to more and more people in the world.
Two examples: first, there is the Lebanese artist who could not exhibit on the Bienal because the artist's work remains in Beirut, due to the blockade that the Israelis have imposed on that country.
The second case is the opposite: contemporary African artists, who, thanks to art, are able to cross without misfortune the same borders that stop sub-Saharan immigrants. Four South African artists are part of the group of 10 African guests to the Bienal, and the hyena men, an impressive series of photographs by Pieter Hugo, as much as the portraits of contemporary people made by Mustafa Maluka, provide unusual images of Africa that defy the visual stereotypes of the continent perpetuated by racism. The equally notable series by Guy Tillim, focusing on the old Belgian Congo, reminds us that it was the waters of colonialism that brought the mud that today we fear may drown us.
Africa and Brazil were linked through the traffic of slaves, and also both were regarded for a long time as 'unexplored territories' - spaces for the development of vast projects of colonisation and scientific expeditions of all types.
- The review goes on to discuss the work of some of the other 100 artists invited to the Bienal - Lara Almárcegui, Antonio Miraldo, Dominique González-Foersters, Juan Araujo, Claudio Andujar, Alberto Baraya, Susan Turcot and Cildo Mereiles. For the full review in the original Spanish, go to http://www.elpais.es/articulo/arte/posible/vivir/juntos/elpbabart/20061014elpbabart_1/Tes/
Opens: October 7
Closes: December 17