Postcolonial Art and Critical Discourses at the São Paulo Biennial

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Amelia CORREA, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
For many critics, mega-events like Biennials are little more than a neoliberal platform, a space corrupted by big capital. Nonetheless, my point here is quite another: I am interested in looking at how the most important contemporary art event of the Global South allows us to think of new power configurations, bringing feminist and post-colonial debates to a wider audience. In fact, one of the most prominent aspects of media treatment of the 2016 São Paulo Bienal was that for the first time in its history, the number of women artists selected was higher than that of men; it has also featured the highest number of black artists ever selected. I have carried out an extensive survey of the profile of the participants, which enables me to analyse questions of artistic representation within the event by taking a close empirical look at artists’ nationality and place of work, as well as their gender and race. This data also allows me to approach issues related to a notion of a post-colonial world of art. The interviews I have done with the curating team lead me to believe that a certain moral geography has partially guided their selection. The space – symbolic and within the geography of the exhibition – given to artists and debates from the South can be read as a position assumed by the institution, as a place from which redefinitions of the center and periphery take hold within the art world. Finally, I analyze some of the works that engage in a direct dialogue with the issues discussed above, focusing on Grada Kilomba and Maria Tereza Alves. Through their work, we are able to see that contemporary art is not a mere repertoire of possible answers, but a place where questions and doubts are translated and re-translated.