Is it possible to hold a genuine dialogue on equal terms between some of the most prominent international artists and their South American colleagues? The answer was given by the 12 countries from this region when they conceived the First International Contemporary Art Biennial of South America – BIENALSUR. This biannual event does not take place every other year but throughout 2016 and 2017. With an unprecedented modality, BIENALSUR is already underway and seeks to meet the challenges of the present times. In this regard, different international public contests for designers, curators and artists have been organized.
With the idea of process underlying contemporary art and under the moo “SUR GLOBAL” (Global South), a number of meetings for artists, curators, collectors, critics, journalists and spectators have been conducted since September 2015. Some of the artists that participate in these events are: Cildo Meireles, Óscar Muñoz, Anna Bella Geiger, Tatiana Trouvé, Ana Gallardo, Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ernesto Ballesteros, Christian Boltanski, Reza, Guillermo Kuitca, Voluspa Jarpa and Graciela Sacco. Other guests are the directors and curators of the following institutions: the Reina Sofía Museum of Madrid; the Hirshhorn Museum of Washington; the Fine Art Museum of Chile; art spaces from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay such as the Contemporary Art Museum of Lima and the Banco de la República de Colombia Museum; the Pinacoteca of Sao Paulo, and the Akademie der Künste of Berlin and art foundations of European companies. A group of intellectuals such as Gilles Lipovetsky, Estrella de Diego, Néstor García Canclini, Ticio Escobar and Graciela Speranza have also been invited. With the organization of simultaneous events in different cities of the region, BIENALSUR enables associated agencies and companies to fulfill their social commitment through art and culture. Another unprecedented feature of this event is that it is organized by the UNTREF (Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero), and therefore incorporates into the process museums, universities, culture and art research centers through the construction of a network of associations.
In this first edition of the Biennial, the epicenter will be the South American capitals. However, it will go beyond major cities as multipolarity is another unique feature of this project. The main Buenos Aires venues of BIENALSUR will be the Centro Cultural Kirchner, with an area of 110,000 square meters; the iconic building of the Hotel de Inmigrantes - MUNTREF, which is part of the museum network of the UNTREF, and the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA). Additionally, BIENALSUR networks with the cities of Tucumán, Córdoba, San Juan, Montevideo, Asunción, Bogotá, Lima, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Valparaíso, Rio de Janeiro, Quito, Cali, Caracas. Likewise, due its international nature, this biennial welcomes the participation of contemporary centers from other latitudes such as those located in Berlin, Cotonou, Sydney, Madrid, Paris and Geneva, among those already confirmed.
BIENALSUR seeks to flood the territory and invade the public space. Yet, it is not meant to be a “graft” implanted in the communities; instead, it aims to allow the pieces or the interventions in each place to be the result of the work of the artists with their societies in consonance with their cultural and regional diversities.
BIENALSUR strives to find its own space as well as ours. Hence, the networking efforts to integrate distant locations and the dislocation exercises that aempt to show us from unusual standpoints and perspectives. Such is the driving force behind SUR GLOBAL: we intend to reveal neglected aspects of our contemporary realities from the South with transnational and global implications.
The International Biennial of Contemporary Art of South America seeks to have a strong impact on the regional and global artistic and cultural scene. Therefore, the objectives above have been established and the founding project envisioned should be able to deactivate the inertia of the eye and of the mind by offering other perspectives and ways of thinking The resources to invade the scene include:
› Establishment of collateral, satellite or parallel spaces.
› Production of alternative sources and specific strategies for the development of circulation and exchange networks – from street interventions to a television station; a website that encourages critical viewing of the contents and offers a wide range of programs for a diversity of audiences, interests and locations; publishing of journals; participation in the existing media, etc.
› Expansion of the field of action of the biennial, both the spatial – real and virtual – and the temporal one. In this regard, there will be reflection seminars on the current art and culture scene for specialists and talks for the general public. This will be part of a problem identification process, debates and the seing of agendas both in the months prior to the opening of the biennial and later, when it is open to the public. Teams of art students from the host country will be worling in the production processes of the works. Furthermore, as a complementary proposal, the South American countries will be invited to grant a number of fellowships for the art students working on the production of works.
› These actions will be implemented in an unprecedented situation: the biennial will open to the public before the official opening. This will allow the public to experience the process of creation, development and production of the works. The curatorial, education and communication teams of the biennial will be working together with the artists and their respective production teams made up of technicians and art students to develop the strategies and contents included in the educational, promotional and transference activities.
› Liaisons will be established with formal and informal educational institutions of different levels and characteristics to contribute to the productive promotion of these initiatives.The collaborative efforts with universities are instrumental in achieving these goals.
› BIENALSUR has organized two international open contests for curatorial projects and artistic proposals with a view to encouraging artists to conceive projects that could not be conducted outside the exceptional seing of a biennial.In this regard, those proposals that intervene/interfere non-conventional sites, public urban spaces, etc. will be strongly supported in order to build visual reference networks that turn the Biennial into a milestone that signals the territory beyond specific exhibition halls.
› BIENALSUR also aims to be a space for the presentation of contemporary art collections. Through the simultaneous visions of art offered by works selected from public and private collections, the public will have a chance to appreciate the diversity of perspectives that currently coexist in the global artistic scene.
› As part of the BIENALSUR ACTIONS, the artists included in the 2017 program are invited to share the creative process of their works in meetings open to the public. Artists Christian Boltanski, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Katsuhiko Hibino and Eduardo Srur have participated in previous meetings.
The professionals in charge of this project are especially dedicated to managing public spaces for formation and development, predominantly in the area of art and culture.
Aníbal Jozami, the general director of BIENALSUR, is currently the Rector of the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, and the founder and director of the MUNTREF - the university museum and contemporary art center. He also has extensive experience in management and international relations.
Diana B. Wechsler is a CONICET researcher, a chair professor of Argentine art at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, director of the Department of Art and Culture of the UNTREF and Deputy Director of the MUNTREF. She has participated in the design of this project since it started in 2005.