Remarks: 30th São Paulo Biennial

Luis Pérez-Oramas, André Severo, Tobi Maier and Isabela Villanueva share their plans for the 2012 edition

The 30th São Paulo Biennial will be organised around a set of questions that aim to be open, so as not to exclude any form of art or artistic manifestation, and are precise and potentially cohesive. These questions will serve a regulating purpose in the complex process of curatorial selections that will materialise. Our central question regards the discursive potentiality of artistic practice today, namely its poetic dimension. For us ‘poetic’ does not mean ‘poetry’ (although it does not exclude this form) and it does not oppose politics. ‘Poetic’ instead refers to the necessity of structuring a discursive, enunciative operation in order to express subjects and objects through artistic apparatuses. Contemporary visual art is aligned with practices of commentary and criticism, thus juxtaposing what Merleau-Ponty would have called ‘the voices of silence’, an idea akin to modern art in states of suspense. We are convinced that living on the certitudes of many modern myths regarding art, the contemporary art world lives in denial of the poetic questions: who speaks in art, what is art saying to us and how, what are the specificities of its many enunciative strategies, how do obliterated poetic strategies survive in current artistic practice, and should we still think of art in terms of medium or should we look for a more specific description and an archeology of discursive platforms?

The biennial will not be an event focusing on single individualities or stars, but rather a biennial of proposed constellations. The notion of constellation, the intellectual approach to art and art objects through the mapping of Atlas-like configurations are key tools. A curatorial practice needs to be reflective, dialogic, and prudent. ‘Prudent’ in the old sense that Aristotle gave to the notion of phronesis: a way to think among unpredictable things, without an absolute science, and where habitus is not a sufficient tool to find relevant meaning. Curatorship is an enunciative practice alongside art and artists; it occurs in dialogue with them, and aims to produce meaning that is both experimental and experiential. We hope that the biennial can address our present in its historical density.