When the 32nd Biennale of Sao Paulo opened its doors last year, the title could not have been more fitting as Brazil was in the throes of economic turmoil involving the so-called “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal. Implicating the highest levels of the nation’s political elite, and with the nation’s mega cities besieged by protests, Latin America’s most important contemporary art exhibitions hosted Incerteza Viva – “Live uncertainty.” The predicament of the art establishment, gathered at Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist pavilion, was echoed in the words of curator Jochen Volz: “I want to be able to objectively address important issues of our time, including political and economic instability.”
The prophetic statement by the head of programs at London’s Serpentine Galleries marked a Biennale that will be remembered as a turning point in Latin American art. Even though Brazil hasn’t recovered from the corruption scandal that resulted in the ousting of twice-elected president Dilma Rousseff and the arrest of her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Incerteza Viva’s legacy is that it can move beyond borders to address issues closer to home, such as the uncertainty surrounding Colombia’s recently signed peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla.
The Modern Art Museum of Bogotá (Mambo) has brought Incerteza Viva to the capital, and even though there are no black T-shirt protests along the Carrera Séptima, many works shown at the 2016 Biennale are on display, reminding audiences that as Volz remarked during the exhibition’s opening press conference: “It is necessary for us to sever the link between uncertainty and fear.”
The Mambo edition is a condensed version of the original with 19 artists from nine countries represented, including two Colombians. The show, which opened July 29, marks the first ever appearance in Bogotá of the famous Sao Paulo Biennale and second oldest in the world after Venice. Among the artists invited are Ana Mazzei (Brazil); Barbara Wagner (Brazil); Carlos Motta (Colombia); Carolina Caycedo (Colombia); Charlotte Johannesson (Sweden); Dalton Paula (Brazil); Francis Alys (Belgium); Gilvan Samico (Brazil); Günes Terkol (Turkey); Helen Sebidi (South Africa) and Wilma Martins.
The Mambo proposal is to capture the spirit of Sao Paulo in a multi-medium exhibition, grounded in artistic proposals that relate to uncertain times, and which like Operation Car Wash has extended its tentacles across the continent.
The works on display present a disheartening narrative of a changing South American artistic landscape rife with populism, exclusive socio-economic models, corporate greed, and corrupt political leadership. Compounded to these layers of uncertainty in real time are far reaching issues, such as the effects of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and global migration. According to Volz, however, not everything about uncertainty is doom and gloom as the “unknown can generate something new.” Certainly, audiences will respond to this narrative during the next two months at Mambo.
For the museum’s director Claudia Hakim, Incerteza Viva also marks an important commitment by both the private and public sector in bringing the best of the Latin American contemporary arts scene to the Colombian capital.
Mambo – Calle 24 No.6-00