Defined as “a memory machine,” the twenty-second edition of Videobrasil—which celebrates its forty years of existence—focuses once again on the production of the so-called Global South. Taking place at Sesc 24 de Maio, in the historic center of the city of São Paulo, the exhibition unfolds across different floors of the venue, offering public works by sixty artists from thirty-eight countries. It is important to emphasize that the exhibition is also the result of a response to an open and international call for proposals that focused on the theme “memory is an editing station” (a quote from a phrase by Brazilian poet Waly Salomão), in which 2,726 entries were received.
The retrospective tone and a return to the origins of the event, which is a more preponderant look at video, moving image and experimental audiovisual, is one of the strongest characteristics of this event. This is a very welcome return, since for some editions the character of “art biennial” assumed by Videobrasil seemed to dilute the striking identity that it had built over the past decades, which is bringing new artists and works to Latin America and often giving space for names that later go on to have a major impact on the global art system. Thus, Videobrasil was always seen as a showcase and catalyst for a movement that could renew local artistic scenes and language, welcoming and giving visibility to that which still had no defined form yet—something we can feel again in this twenty-second edition.
In general terms, the curatorial framework of the exhibition seems a little diffused, perhaps due to the open-call process: carried out by pre-selection jurors and curation carried out by four hands. In addition to the theme of memory and the post-pandemic condition, I would add that there is a strong connection with aspects of what has recently been called “post-internet.” Collages of the most different orders and cross-references, creating a web of interconnections (not always clear in their connections with the surroundings or nearest works), generate microcosms of cultural positions that are rich and also polyvalent without ceasing to be challenging. Works with strong socio-political scopes are also present, such as the participation of the Congolese collective CATPC (Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise), which has been collaborating with Renzo Martens; also the surprising participation of Ailton Krenak with paintings. I would also highlight Adrian Paci, Ali Cherri, Leila Danziger, Luciano Figueiredo, Tang Han, Youqine Lefèvre, Karel Koplimets & Maido Juss, Kent Chan, who stand out in the development of important propositions that challenge various aspects of the global (art) system, based on articulations that address the valorization of memory, forced displacement and nomadism, clashes of identities, the process of identification and exclusion, the media, economic and political manipulations, as well as touching on other distortions that move the world today.
Although the Sesc buildings are very hard and challenging bureaucratic spaces in which to show art (with rare exceptions, such as Sesc Pompéia), the exhibition manages—by unfolding itself across the floors of the 24 de Maio headquarters—to provide an experience that is immersive, reflective and provocative. It’s refreshing to have an event of this medium scale, one that allows us to learn and enjoy challenging work without the inherent exhaustion of major art events and biennials.
In addition to all these features, there is, finally, the presence of Videobrasil’s physical and digital archive on one of the floors of Sesc, providing the public access to the entire collection of works and curatorial paths that the event has unfolded over the last forty years. It is a very important collection and in fact a testimony to the techno-aesthetic developments of a considerable part of contemporary art. Let’s hope that the collection (as well as Videobrasil) remains like this: open, accessible and alive.
“22nd Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil: Memory is an Editing Station“
October 18-February 25, 2024
Sesc 24 de Maio
Rua 24 de Maio, 109 – República, São Paulo