In December 2017, the World Trade Organization, meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, issued a statement criticizing the “trend to reject the foreign, the imported, reject the global,” seen in the trade policy of the US and other WTO member countries. In April 2018, Palestinians staged a major demonstration against the 70th anniversary of Israel and the Nakba, while Italy, England, and other European countries have witnessed the revival of movements laying claim to the continent’s fascist heritage. On all sides and from different shades of the political spectrum, nationalism has reemerged as a critical theme to understand the disputes that shape our time, raising questions about the duration and scope of this new regressive cycle.
In this context, the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil | Imagined Communities borrows the title of Benedict Anderson’s classic study of the rise of nationalism to investigate how poetics stemming from the South have been addressing the phenomenon. Our interest, however, is not limited to imagined communities related to nation-states and the resurgence of nationalism. Going beyond Anderson’s conception, it is fitting to consider also other communities, created by imaginations distinct from those that founded national states.
By establishing a common ground for all community imaginations, the curatorial statement of the 21st Biennial momentarily relativizes the antinomies that have so far guided and supported the Festival’s past editions for the sake of a broader imagination exercise. Just as Pier Paolo Pasolini conceived a transnational Third World, beginning in the outskirts of Rome and extending to the countries then included in that category, we can add here communities that exist on the fringes of nation-states or in their breaches. We consider, therefore, communities of original peoples, organized without or against a state; multispecies communities, as imagined by Amerindian perspectivism; religious or mystical communities, conceived from transcendent understandings of existence; communities divided by borders drawn by colonialism or uprooted from their original lands for some reason; fictional, utopian, or clandestine communities that generate minority political practices, or those constituted in the subterranean universes of sexual experiences and dissident, counter-hegemonic, or non-Western bodies.
In his book, Anderson notes that “nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.” Given this assertion, one must ask how symbolizations operate on the fringes of this “universally legitimate value” produced by national identities. If the South goes about investigating the symbolic production of the fringes of the hegemonic discourses of power, where are the poetics stemming from the fringe of the fringe located? What center of power serves them as model? Do they aspire to reach it, like some of those from the South? Do they base themselves on any history (of art?), do they conceive forms of distinction? In the name of what do these men and women continue to symbolize, despite everything? What languages and what idioms does the imagination of these stateless communities mobilize? Without abandoning the panoramic ambition of the event or its usual geopolitical focus, this edition intends to expand the repertoire of questions that guide our work in order to broaden the diversity of the voices we hear.