São Paulo Biennial: Constellation

The curatorial team behind the 30th São Paulo Biennial — structured around the concept of constellation — have created a network of exhibition spaces throughout the length and breadth of the city.

The 30th São Paulo Biennial is structured around the concept of constellation, not just theoretically, but also geographically. Luis Pérez-Oramas and his curatorial team, with Tobi Maier, André Severo and Isabela Villanueva, have created a network of exhibition spaces throughout the length and breadth of the city. Places of historical and architectural value have been identified and incorporated into the impressive Biennial circuit, increasing the possibilities for site-specific work.

The Biennial has been invited to crisscross São Paulo for three-and-a-half months, successfully challenging its reputation as a chaotic and congested city, in which the strategy of using diverse venues, which works for the Venice Bienniale and Documenta (Kassel) , would theoretically be senseless.

This network, the aim of which is not so much to spread the Biennial through the metropolis as to reintroduce the metropolis into the Biennial, comprises eight venues, reclaiming the city as a space for democratising access to art. There are suggested itineraries such as the piece Todo en su mente. Viaje en dos actos ["All in the mind. Journey in two acts"] by Argentinean artist Leandro Tartaglia , a round trip with an audio guide starting from the Biennial Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park and leading to the Morumbi chapel. The particular acoustic qualities of this chapel led to it being chosen to host a selection of recordings and visual material by the visionary composer Maryanne Amacher (1938–2009), a contemporary of John Cage. This posthumous installation works not only with the sounds produced by instruments but also with the tones created by the listener's mind upon hearing them.

Square Tubes (1967), by another deceased artist, Germany's Charlotte Posenenske, hovers over the central walkway of the Luz station. This choice of location is fitting for a piece by Posenenske, who preferred to install her sculptures in airports, stations or on roundabouts rather than in galleries. An extremely light structure of folded steel sheet stems from a modular idea, which ultimately enabled her widower to produce this specific project. Every day, some 400,000 spectators have the opportunity to enjoy this work, which will go unnoticed or unappreciated by some, as it would if it were in a museum.
Top: Charlotte Posenenske, <em>Square Tubes</em>, installation view at Luz station. Above: Leandro Tartaglia, <em>Todo en su mente. Viaje en dos actos</em> [“All in the mind. Journey in two acts”], a round trip with an audio guide starting from the Biennial Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park and leading to the Morumbi chapel
Top: Charlotte Posenenske, Square Tubes , installation view at Luz station. Above: Leandro Tartaglia, Todo en su mente. Viaje en dos actos [“All in the mind. Journey in two acts”], a round trip with an audio guide starting from the Biennial Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park and leading to the Morumbi chapel
A short metro ride brings you to the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), which is showing a recently-restored work attributed to Nicolas Poussin, Hymen disguised as a woman at a sacrifice to Priapus (1634-1638). Another German artist, Jutta Koether , revisits the canvas with three paintings that between them measure the same size as Hymen and reinterpret some of its motifs. Koether had shown a prior interest in both Poussin and the glass easels created by Lina Bo Bardi for the MASP. These simple pieces represented a milestone in the way we view museography, freeing pictures from the opaque surface of walls from 1968 onwards. Withdrawn from use in the 1990s, Koether is now using them again in order to display her paintings opposite the Poussin piece, overcoming all the institutional difficulties to establish an interesting dialogue between the two eras.
Hugo Canoilas, <em>Passáros do Paraíso</em>, installation view at Casa do Bandeirante
Hugo Canoilas, Passáros do Paraíso , installation view at Casa do Bandeirante
In parallel to this, the video Ceremonials (1974), by the Catalan artist Benet Rossell, depicting different events, banquets and processions held in the 1970s, is also being shown. These ceremonies create a dreamlike world of colour and festivity, with masked figures, meals and community dances — an atmosphere similar to that reflected in Hymen .

The Casa do Bandeirante, an example of rural São Paulo architecture in rammed earth, is the venue for the project Passáros do Paraíso , by Portuguese artist Hugo Canoilas. Throughout the rooms, Canoilas juxtaposes old commonplace objects with new paintings and videos produced during his research into the incursions by the bandeirantes , who began to penetrate the territory of Brazil from the 16th century onwards.
The urban journey one must take in order to view these works is at once didactic and recreational, critical and stimulating
Hugo Canoilas, <em>Passáros do Paraíso</em>, installation view at Casa do Bandeirante
Hugo Canoilas, Passáros do Paraíso , installation view at Casa do Bandeirante
An arrangement of flags hangs and sways in the first room, their historic and political value now barely even aesthetic. Meanwhile, the legendary Tietê River , today sadly polluted, is shown carrying along objects and waste, and in some of the most shocking videos full of chemical foam. An old hammock suspended within a frame shares the room with an eerie whip raised to the status of an objet d'art and a large piece of coloured fabric depicting a dying explorer. The painting is a reinterpretation of the picture Últimos momentos de um Bandeirante ["Last moments of a Bandeirante "] (1932), in which Henrique Bernardelli demystifies the hero who gave name to the house.
The building regarded as the first modern house in Brazil, built by the architect Gregori Warchavchik in 1928, hosts the audible <em>Looking at Listening</em> sculptures by Sergei Tcherepnin and Ei Arakawa
The building regarded as the first modern house in Brazil, built by the architect Gregori Warchavchik in 1928, hosts the audible Looking at Listening sculptures by Sergei Tcherepnin and Ei Arakawa
The building regarded as the first modern house in Brazil, built by the architect Gregori Warchavchik in 1928, hosts the audible Looking at Listening sculptures by Sergei Tcherepnin and Ei Arakawa. Loudspeaker-pieces made of metal sheets with photographic prints and fabric, which visitors can handle, modify the characteristics of the sound emitted. Site-specific works such as Archicactus complete this offering.
José Arnaud Bello uses projections, photographs, drawings and text with great sensitivity to compose three sets of works that verge between the poetic and the scientific
José Arnaud Bello uses projections, photographs, drawings and text with great sensitivity to compose three sets of works that verge between the poetic and the scientific
Works by three artists who work around and record landscapes share space at FAAP The Museum of Brazilian Art : the installations of the Mexican artist José Arnaud Bello, the projects of China's Xu Bing and the land art videos of Robert Smithson , Monolake (1968), Swamp (1971) and Spiral Jetty (1970). José Arnaud Bello uses projections, photographs, drawings and text with great sensitivity to compose three sets of works that verge between the poetic and the scientific, creating worthy counterparts to Smithson.
Xu Bing, installation view at the FAAP The Museum of Brazilian Art
Xu Bing, installation view at the FAAP The Museum of Brazilian Art
Visitors had to wait until November to visit the last island in this archipelago – a retrospective exhibition of the works of Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari, at the Tomie Ohtake Institute .
Robert Smithson, <em>Spiral Jetty</em> (1970)
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970)
The urban journey one must take in order to view these works is at once didactic and recreational, critical and stimulating. It reveals the Biennial and deforms it, establishing a commitment to the city that future biennials will be unable to escape. Isabel Martínez Abascal
Charlotte Posenenske, <em>Square Tubes</em>, installation view at Luz station
Charlotte Posenenske, Square Tubes , installation view at Luz station
Maryanne Amacher, installation at the Morumbi chapel
Maryanne Amacher, installation at the Morumbi chapel

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