BIENALSUR 2021: 18,370 kilometres of contemporary art throughout the world


The third edition of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of the South, organised by the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, an Argentine public university, brought the critical art of more than 400 creators to 24 countries, proposing a reflection on the most pressing issues of our time.  After six months of continuous openings, from July to December 2021 the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of the South - organised since 2015 by the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF) - established a new international cartography of 18,370 kilometres of contemporary art from its Km 0 in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Tokyo, Japan, through collaborative and networking projects with 120 venues in over 40 cities from 24 countries of the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Through exhibitions, installations, performances, activations and public programmes, both in-person and online, in museums, cultural centres, universities, large cities and small towns, on the web and through social media, with the participation of more than 400 artists and curators from all continents, creators of projects selected in the international open call held in 2020, including others by invitation, BIENALSUR reconfirmed its vocation as a different kind of biennial: delocalised, collaborative, and multipolar.  BIENALSUR creates networks between institutions and countries, promotes processes of cultural integration and offers a multiple, democratic, and international exhibition space to render art accessible to all communities.  As such, the third edition of the Biennial, which emerged in the south of the world as an exercise in indiscipline by creating a community beyond borders, was present in 2021 in countries such as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Spain, the United States, France, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Uruguay, and Argentina, among others, through works by artists of different backgrounds, ages, nationalities and genres, who proposed - from diverse points of view and with plural voices - an international conversation on the most pressing issues of our time. Emerging artists and others with renowned international careers such as Kimsooja from Korea, Christian Boltanski from France - a BIENALSUR partner since the beginning of the project in 2015 and to whom tribute was paid in this edition -, Marie Orensanz from France and Argentina, Luis Felipe "Yuyo" Noé, Carlos Ginzburg and Graciela Sacco from Argentina, Reza Aramesh from Iran, Jordi Colomer from Spain, Muhannad Shono and Ahaad Alamoudi from Saudi Arabia, Gernot Wieland from Austria, Bruna Esposito from Italy, Katsuhiko Hibino from Japan, and Belkis Ayón from Cuba, among many others. Regardless of the pandemic, while addressing its contingencies in its third edition - as an action of resistance, or even as a movement of resilience - BIENALSUR managed to expand its cartography to reach places it had never been before and returned to locations that are already part of the BIENALSUR community. In 2017, the year of the first edition of the project, it reached 80 venues in 34 cities in 16 countries. In 2019, the second edition took place in 112 venues in 47 cities in 21 countries. In 2021, the project expanded to 120 venues in more than 40 cities in 24 countries. The increase in the number of exhibition centres and BIENALSUR actions was significant, as was the participation of artists, curators, and audiences. "Biennials are generally held in big cities and are not intended for their residents, but for the visitors who travel there. BIENALSUR is different in that it is for the people who live in all those places, large cities, as well as small towns, where it is presented. It is a biennial produced from the Global South, a utopian space, as it were, which focuses on art with little visibility and representation in the world art circuit and is committed to the creation of networks between countries without borders. The fundamental value of BIENALSUR is to bring people together - artists, audiences - from different origins, without any kind of differentiation of nationality, race or gender", says Aníbal Jozami, the General Director of the project and Rector of the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, a sociologist specialised in International Relations, businessman and art collector.  Based on the projects selected in the Open Call, BIENALSUR worked on five major curatorial axes: Transits and Migrations, Ecological Awareness, Ways of Inhabiting, Fluid Constellations and Art Policies. A significant number of the exhibitions developed during the third edition focused on pressing issues such as the vulnerability of migrant populations and the need to respect the other without stripping them of their uniqueness, as in the case of "Between Us and the Others: TOGETHER APART", presented at the MUNTREF Hotel de Inmigrantes in the City of Buenos Aires; or the ancestral cosmovision and the resistance of native peoples to the advance of extractivist capitalism, as occurred with "The Eternal Return of the New World" and "Silver Rights", which were housed at the Complejo Museográfico Provincial Enrique Udaondo in the city of Luján, and "Listening and the Winds", which had two distinct parts at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Lola Mora in Salta, in the north of Argentina, and at the Fundación Migliorisi and the Centro de Artes Visuales - Museo del Barro in Paraguay. Furthermore, there was an opportunity to consider the consequences of environmental degradation through exhibitions such as "Radical Ecologies", at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in the Buenos Aires quarter of La Boca, "Ecologizing BIENALSUR - Rethinking Beuys", at the Fondazione Southeritage per l'arte contemporanea in Matera, Italy, and the entire circuit organised in the Argentine province of Córdoba, where five sections dedicated to this theme were presented. The issues of the mechanisms of control in the cities where we live and how to find a way to coexist with these spaces in an imaginative and disruptive way were explored, for example, in the 5 events organised in different venues in the city of Montevideo, in Uruguay, and in exhibitions such as "Crown in the Imaginary Universe of Eduardo Basualdo", presented at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf of Germany. Feminisms and sexual dissidence were addressed in projects such as "Becoming the Body" at the Centro Cultural de España Juan de Salazar of Paraguay. Finally, the modifications of the human experience as a result of the irruption of digital technologies permeated proposals such as "Echoes. A World between the Analogue and the Virtual", showcased in the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. "The purpose of BIENALSUR has always been to establish a real presence of the South in the art world atlas and to contribute to the creation of a cultural citizenship. To this end, it was necessary to define a format and operation whereby the art of each region is not integrated as a mere quota of diversity, but works with respect for singularities, redefining traditional positions, making relationships more complex, recovering traditions, establishing links between spaces and times," says Diana Wechsler, Artistic Director of BIENALSUR and Director of the Department of Art and Culture at UNTREF. With the steadfast purpose of continuing to outline other dynamics for art and culture in the search for new logics of artistic and social circulation on a local and global scale, BIENALSUR moves on to the fourth edition, to be held in 2023, while upholding the right to culture and diversity.