Here’s What the Experimental 2018 Sao Paulo Biennial Looks Like

For "Affective Affinities," curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro has let a team of artist-curators define what the show feels like. Here's what it looks like.

Artist and curator Antonio Ballester Moreno during the installation of his artwork in the 33rd Sao Paolo Bienal. Photo © Pedro Ivo Trasferetti. Image courtesy Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

The 33rd edition of the Bienal de São Paulo is here, and visitors to the Brazilian mega-city can now judge for themselves whether curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro’s experimentally hands-off approach has paid off.

The title of the 2018 edition, “Affective Affinities,” alludes to Goethe and the great Brazilian art critic Mário Pedrosa and invites a variety of interpretations. But all you really need to know to begin to make sense of the show is Pérez-Barreiro’s core and defining practical decision here: delegation.

Specifically, he has turned vast sections of the giant Bienal pavilion over to seven artist-curators. Each was given the brief to curate a show including their own work—and pretty much total freedom beyond that to define what kind of show that might be.

What the viewer will remember, then, is how the diverse and competing visions of these seven figures do and do not play off of each other. The artists—Alejandro Cesarco, Antonio Ballester Moreno, Claudia Fontes, Mamma Andersson, Sofia Borges, Waltercio Caldas, and Wura-Natasha Ogunji—did not coordinate, or even meet until Tuesday’s press conference.

The result is an Exquisite Corpse take on a biennial. Each artist’s show has its own title, theme, and own idea of the proper mix of historical and contemporary material or method of juxtaposing works. Each even has its own labeling strategies.

Pérez-Barreiro has not totally given up the reins. In the sweeping spaces of the vast Oscar Niemeyer-designed pavilion between the different sections, he supplements the artist-designed shows with individual exhibitions or projects from a variety of figures, historical and contemporary.

How does it all come off? Judge for yourself. Below, I’ve put a few photos to give a general feeling for the shape-shifting sensibility of the whole thing. (A proper review will follow next week.)

Antonio Ballester Moreno, “Common/Sense”   

José Moreno Cascales, Antologia (1949-1980). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

José Moreno Cascales, Antologia (1949-1980). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Benjamín Palencia, <em>Paloma</em> (1927). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Benjamín Palencia, Paloma (1927). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Andrea Büttner, <em>Bench</em> (2012). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Andrea Büttner, Bench (2012). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Antonio Ballestar Moreno, <em>Vivan los campos libres</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Antonio Ballestar Moreno, Vivan los campos libres (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Mark Dion, <em>Field Station: Ibirapuera Park</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Mark Dion, Field Station: Ibirapuera Park (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Sofia Borges, “The Infinite History of Things or the End of the Tragedy of One”

Tal Issac Hadad, <em>Recital Para um massagista</em>. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tal Issac Hadad, Recital Para um massagista. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Sarah Lucas, <em>Tit-Cat Up</em> (2015). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Sarah Lucas, Tit-Cat Up (2015). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tunga, <em>Sem titula</em> (2014). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tunga, Sem titula (2014). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ana Prata, <em>Boat Trip on the Canal (Paul Klee)</em> (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ana Prata, Boat Trip on the Canal (Paul Klee) (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jennifer Tee, <em>Subtle Planes-Spirit Matter</em> (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jennifer Tee, Subtle Planes-Spirit Matter (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Claudia Fontes, “The Slow Bird”

Elba Bairon, <em>Sem titulo</em> (2017-2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Elba Bairon, Sem titulo (2017-2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Claudia Fontes, <emNota al pie</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Claudia Fontes, Footnote (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, <em>Content</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Content (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Daniel Bozhkov, <em>My dear highly venomous</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Detail of Daniel Bozhkov’s installation My dear highly venomous (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Performance of Daniel Bozhkov's <em>My dear highly venomous</em> (2018) during the biennial. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Performance of Daniel Bozhkov’s My dear highly venomous (2018) during the biennial. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, “Always, Never”

Nicole Vlado, <em>"here" (I gaze at stars to heal wounds)</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Nicole Vlado, “here” (I gaze at stars to heal wounds) (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, <em>The sea and it's raining. I missed you so much.</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, The sea and it’s raining. I missed you so much. (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, <em>A series of interconnected pools (We talked about nothing for hours)</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, A series of interconnected pools (We talked about nothing for hours) (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, <em>Kissing Movable Things [Even Beautiful We'll Dance Over and Again]</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, Kissing Movable Things [Even Beautiful We’ll Dance Over and Again] (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Performance as part of Lhola Amira's <em>Philisa: Hlala Ngikombamthise</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Performance as part of Lhola Amira’s Philisa: Hlala Ngikombamthise (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Alejandro Cesarco, “To Our Parents”

Gallery of works by Sturtevant. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Gallery of works by Sturtevant. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Series of works by Peter Dreher, <em>Day by Day Good Day</em>. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Series of works by Peter Dreher, Day by Day Good Day. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

John Miller, <em>File Cabinet</em> (2011). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

John Miller, File Cabinet (2011). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jennifer Packer, <em>Say Her Name</em> (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jennifer Packer, Say Her Name (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Oliver Laric, <em>Youth from Magdalensberg</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Oliver Laric, Youth from Magdalensberg (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Waltercio Caldas, “The Appearances”

Waltercio Caldas, <em>Not Now</em> (2014). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Waltercio Caldas, Not Now (2014). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

José Resende, <em>sem título</em> (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

José Resende, sem título (2013). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tunga, <em>Sem título</em> (2015). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tunga, Sem título (2015). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Cabelo, <em>White Dwarf Stars in Globular Cluster</em> (2011). Image courtesy Ben Davis.</em></em>

Cabelo, White Dwarf Stars in Globular Cluster (2011). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Waltercio Caldas, <em>Regular plate with rubber band</em> (1978). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Waltercio Caldas, Regular plate with rubber band (1978). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Mamma Andersson, “Stargazer II”

Works by Henry Darger in the 2018 Sao Paolo Bienal. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works by Henry Darger in the 2018 Sao Paolo Bienal. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Mamma Andersson, <em>Hangman</em> (2014) [left] and <em>Pigeon House</em> (2010). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Mamma Andersson, Hangman (2014) [left] and Pigeon House (2010). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lim-Johan, <em>Moose and Elkhound</em> (1899-1901). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lim-Johan, Moose and Elkhound (1899-1901). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Bruno Knutman, <em>Glödande sol</em> (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Bruno Knutman, Glödande sol (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Gunvar Nelson, <em>My name is Oona</em> (1969). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Gunvar Nelson, My name is Oona (1969). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Individual Artist Projects, Curated by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro

Alejandro Corujeira, <em>The Last Wings</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Alejandro Corujeira, The Last Wings (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Luisa Crossman, <em>TRAMA</em> (2018) for the 2018 Sao Paolo Biennial. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Luisa Crossman, TRAMA (2018) for the 2018 Sao Paolo Biennial. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lucia Nogueira, <em>Mask</em> (1986). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lucia Nogueira, Mask (1986). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Nelson Felix, <em>Schizophrenia of the Form of Ecstasy</em> (2017-2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Nelson Felix, Schizophrenia of the Form of Ecstasy (2017-2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Siron Franco. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Siron Franco. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of sculpture by Denise Milan. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of sculpture by Denise Milan. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Vânia Mignone. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Vânia Mignone. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Aníbal López (A-1 53167). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Aníbal López (A-1 53167). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Feliciano Centurión, <em>Divine Light of the Soul</em> (ca. 1996). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Feliciano Centurión, Divine Light of the Soul (ca. 1996). Image courtesy Ben Davis.


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