Affected by the pandemic, 34th Bienal de São Paulo begins this Saturday and discusses the ‘voice’ of art in dark times | São Paulo

The 34th Bienal de São Paulo, which opens its doors to the public this Saturday (4), will discuss this year the importance of artistic production in dark times. The theme chosen for the edition – “Faz dark but eu canto”, a verse by the Amazonian poet Thiago de Mello written in 1965 – already denounces the provocation made by the curators of the biennale.

“What are the important works to be brought to the public in a dark moment? Because, in these moments, art and culture play an even more fundamental role”, says guest curator Carla Zaccagnini.

Works of art on display at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, entitled “Faz dark but eu singing” . held at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, Ibirapuera Park, this Thursday morning, August 2nd. — Photo: VAN CAMPOS/FOTOARENA/FOTOARENA/ESTADÃO CONTENT

The Covid-19 pandemic is just one of the dark aspects that the curators refer to. The theme “It’s dark but I sing” was chosen by them back in 2019, as the Bienal was supposed to take place in September 2020.

Author of the verse that gives the show its name, poet Thiago de Mello was arrested and exiled during the Brazilian military dictatorship. His 1965 work “Does dark, but I sing because the morning will come” reflects the authoritarian context and demonstrates a clear opposition to the military regime, according to researchers from the project Memories of Dictatorship, linked to the Vladimir Herzog Institute.

“When we started working on this show, between 2018 and 2019, we already predicted that this biennale would take place at a conflicting time. And it was with this in mind that we chose the title of the biennale,” says Paulo Miyada, assistant curator of the exhibition.

“But we couldn’t predict that this darkness would be so literal from 2019 until now”, completes Paulo Miyada.

“This same verse successively gains meanings of protest, resistance, struggle, and hope. So, for us, resuming this verse today is a way of remembering that a work can continue to transform its meanings as well”, he adds.

Exhibition ‘Faz dark but I sing’ at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo at the Bienal Pavilion, at Ibirapuera Park — Photo: Patrícia Figueiredo/G1 SP

For the event’s general curator, Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, the opportunity to discuss this topic at the Bienal de São Paulo is unique due to the diversity of its audience. Historically, the event has always been free, while similar shows in other countries around the world are traditionally paid for.

“The São Paulo Biennale is unique precisely because of the diversity of audiences it manages to summon. And we want each visitor to understand the works in their own way, but also to make suggestions and let each visitor feel authorized to disagree with them, to make their own readings,” says Visconti.

Works of art on display at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, entitled “Faz dark but eu singing” . held at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, Ibirapuera Park. — Photo: VAN CAMPOS/FOTOARENA/FOTOARENA/ESTADÃO CONTENT

‘Statements’ and National Museum

In addition to works of art, the Bienal also exhibits 14 “statements”, installations that tell stories with the help of various objects. Each of them is accompanied by a letter, which explains the relationship between the pieces and invites visitors to connect them in different ways.

“The statements are subtle entry points to some of the curatorial and narrative structures that the public will find in the exhibition space,” explains Elvira Dyangani Ose, guest editor in collaboration with The Showroom museum, in an excerpt from the exhibition catalogue.

The first of these statements is composed of three objects belonging to the National Museum collection, among them the Santa Luzia meteorite, the second largest space object known in Brazil, which survived the museum fire in September 2018 unharmed.

Meteorite Santa Luzia, the second largest space object known in Brazil, part of the National Museum collection and currently exhibited at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo — Photo: Patrícia Figueiredo/G1 SP

Another object included in this statement is a stone that, with the heat of the fire, was transformed from amethyst to citrine, two types of quartz of different colors. The rock is presented as a symbol of a painful transformation.

“This is a lengthy process, which attests that the temperature in the museum must have been around 450 °C for several hours. By indelibly absorbing the heat, the stone became a clue, and its color, a witness of what happened. It was transformed, but it is the same stone. It is still the same stone because it knew how to transform itself”, explain the curators in the catalogue.

The third object of the statement in honor of the National Museum was not displayed in the place that caught fire, but was donated by Kaimote Kamayurá, from the village of Karajá de Hawaló, on Bananal Island, Tocantins, to help rebuild the institution’s collection.

It is a ritxòkò doll, which symbolically would replace a doll from the National Museum collection and which was lost in the fire.

“With this gesture, Kaimote Kamayurá acts as a representative of an original people that decides to actively contribute to the preservation of their culture and to the reconstruction of the National Museum’s collection”, say the museum’s curators in the letter of the statement.

“Starting anew can also be an opportunity to reiterate the parts of the pacts that strengthen the parties involved, criticizing what subjugates the knowledge of one people to the exploitative violence of another”, completes the letter.

Visits to the 34th Bienal de São Paulo do not need to be scheduled in advance, but it is mandatory the use of masks and presentation of proof of vaccination against Covid-19, with at least one dose, for entry into the pavilion. The “vaccine passport” can be presented via a mobile application, called E-health, or in a physical format (see here how to download the digital version).

Works of art on display at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, entitled “Faz dark but eu singing” . held at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, Ibirapuera Park. — Photo: VAN CAMPOS/FOTOARENA/FOTOARENA/ESTADÃO CONTENT

The public can opt for free visits or participate in mediated visits, which take place without an appointment and at fixed times, in addition to thematic visits, mediated by professionals from different areas. The times for each type of mediation can be found in the event’s official agenda. There are also visits in English, Spanish, with interpretation in Libras or specific for children.

To cater to the public at the exhibition, the Bienal pavilion was equipped with two temporary restaurants, one in the external area on the ground floor and the other on the second floor of the building. There is also the official Bienal café, which was decorated with a complete collection of posters from the 33 editions of the Bienal de São Paulo. It will also be possible to borrow sarongs on site to have a picnic in the park.

Entrance to the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, It’s dark but I sing, at Ibirapuera Park, in São Paulo — Photo: Patrícia Figueiredo/G1 SP

34th Bienal de São Paulo – It’s dark but I sing

  • Dates: September 4th to December 5th, 2021;
  • Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 10am – 7pm (last entry at 6:30pm); Thursday and Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm (last entry at 8:30 pm);
  • Free entrance;
  • Access upon presentation of proof of vaccination against Covid-19 (printed vaccination card or QR Code, also available in the ConnectSUS, E-Saúde and Poupatempo apps);
  • Address: Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, sn Ibirapuera Park, Gate 3, São Paulo, SP.

Works from the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, with the theme ‘Do dark but I sing’, at the Pavilhão da Bienal, in Ibirapuera Park — Photo: Patrícia Figueiredo/G1 SP

VIDEOS: Everything about São Paulo and the metropolitan region