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After the frightening numbers of new infections and deaths, the most important annual artistic event in Latin America has joined the global ranks of an increasing number of pandemic-related postponements. The 34th Bienal de São Paulo is now officially taking place from 4 September to 5 December 2021, despite its initial opening in February 2020. 

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Entitled "Faz escuro mas eu canto" [Though it’s dark, still I sing] the biennial was inaugurated on February 8 2020, with a day full of celebration, performance and exhibitions guided by the chief curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti. To open the dances, the Peruvian artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca and her staff performed a research-focused work on the turbulent Peruvian history bound to the cultural impact of the neo-colonial models. Also performed was the musical project of South African Neo Muyanga entitled "Amazing Grace" with a melody interpreted by 40 voices in the Oscar Niemeyer pavilion, a piece inspired by the funeral song typically used during public occasions in different African countries. 

The defiant title of the biennale looks even stronger in the current climate, considering that Brazil has 1,448,753 infections, out of 2,649,302 in Latin America, including a total of 60,632 deaths, out of 118,604 across the continent. The New York Times reports over 281,000 cases just in the richest and most populous city of Brazil: Sao Paulo. During the official Zoom meeting, it was also announced that the next editions of the biennale will take place in odd years to follow on from this. 

 

Solo show by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, installation view, 34th Bienal de São Paulo © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo 3

 

As Visconti commented "From the outset, the biennial was conceived from a curatorial point of view as a project that expands its conventional limits both in time and space. These new dates are a challenge for us, to continue what from the beginning we had set as the essential parameters and concepts of the exhibition. We were already thinking of facing ideas of resistance, of displacement, of production of art and culture when you are locked up in a prison or in a domestic environment. So, most of the things that we were already working on seem to be more relevant today. "José Olympio Pereira, president of the Fundacao Bienal de Sao Paulo, (one of the most influential art collectors in the world) said that the biennial budget had not yet been affected by the pandemic since a significant part of its funds had not yet been spent before the lockdown.

 

Solo show by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, installation view, 34th Bienal de São Paulo © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo 3

 

The curatorial team of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo is composed of the already nominated Jacopo Crivelli Visconti (chief curator), Paulo Miyada (adjunct curator) and Carla Zaccagnini, Francesco Stocchi and Ruth Estévez (guest curators). Together, the team has conceived the 34th Bienal as a “processual” exhibition, which aims to present and problematize works, artists and issues central to contemporary art production and contemporary society, while also reflecting on the process of the conception and realization of an event of such a scale. And while the country is on its knees, President Bolsonaro continues to defy common sense. A federal judge has cancelled the legal requirement which would make him wear a mask in public. Therefore, the head of state will be able to move freely with his face exposed without the risk of being fined.

Cover image: Performance by Neo Muyanga on February 8, 2020, as part of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo. Photo © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

Written by Elisabetta Rastelli

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