Four decades after holding the first Videobrasil festival in the final years of the civil-military dictatorship that haunted Brazil, the 22nd Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil | 40-Year Special occupies Sesc 24 de Maio between October 18, 2023 and February 25, 2024. Under the title Memory is an Editing Station, the exhibition dialogues with the event’s long trajectory, while simultaneously reflecting on the present moment of the world and pointing to future paths, through the works of 60 artists from the Global South.
With artistic direction by Solange Oliveira Farkas and curated by Raphael Fonseca, from Brazil, and Renée Akitelek Mboya, from Kenya, the 22nd edition is the result of a partnership between Sesc SP and the Associação Cultural Videobrasil. Drawing on a verse by Waly Salomão, the curatorial selection presents different visions and ways of approaching memory — and forgetting — whether individual or collective, linked to varied social, political and cultural contexts. The different ideas of memory that emerge at the biennial vary not only according to the generation of the participating artists, but also according to their geographic origin and the media they use — such as video, installation, photography, performance and textiles.
The Global South that emerges in this edition, with artists from 38 countries in Africa, the Americas (South, Central and North), Asia, Europe (Eastern and Portugal), the Middle East and Oceania — including representatives of Indigenous peoples — also reflects the global post-pandemic context. With significant space for audiovisual languages, based on the perception of the central role that video occupies in contemporary life, the edition establishes a direct link with the early days of Videobrasil. It celebrates its four decades with the parallel exhibition 40-Year Special on the fourth floor of Sesc 24 de Maio, which covers the entire history of the event and its transformations over time.
More than a major event, the 22nd Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil is a platform that generates knowledge and creates networks in marginalized territories on the world map of the arts. In this sense, a series of public programs will be held throughout the event. We invite everyone to visit Sesc 24 de Maio, take part in the activities, and browse our website and social media pages, which will be constantly updated.
Raphael Fonseca, Rio de Janeiro, 1988
Researcher in the areas of art history, criticism, curatorship and education. He has a special interest in the relations between art, visual culture and history in their various conceptions. The juxtaposition of different temporalities and how this can trigger contemporary reflections for audiences is of great importance in his practice. Humor, absurdity, pop culture and the notion that an exhibition relates to the ideas of assembly, set design and spectacle has grown among his research interests. Fonseca is the first curator of modern and contemporary Latin American art at the Denver Art Museum, USA. He worked as a curator at MAC Niterói between 2017 and 2020. He holds a doctoral degree in Art Criticism and Art History from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), and has received the Marcantonio Vilaça Curatorship Award (2015). Among his recent exhibitions are Who tells a tale adds a tail (Denver Art Museum, 2022), Raio-que-o-parta: fictions of modernity in Brazil (Sesc 24 de Maio, 2022), The silence of tired tongues (Framer Framed, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2022), Sweat (Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, 2021-2022), Shuttle (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – São Paulo, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, 2019–2020), Lost and found (ICA Singapore, 2019), Sonia Gomes – life is reborn, always (MAC Niterói, 2018), and The sun teaches us that history is not everything (Osage Art Foundation, Hong Kong, 2018).
Renée Akitelek Mboya, Nairobi, 1986
Writer, curator and filmmaker. Her work addresses biography and storytelling as a form of research and production. Mboya is currently concerned with looking to and talking about images and the ways in which they are produced, but especially how they have come to play a critical role as evidence of white paranoia and as aesthetic expressions of racial violence. Considering that, Mboya seeks a better understanding of the ways in which such images are used to reinforce the institutionalized narrative of the racialized body as a constant danger to law enforcement. Among her most recent projects are Sweet Like Honey (Northern Corner Gallery, Musanze, 2022) and A Glossary of Words My Mother Never Taught Me (Cell Project Space, London, 2021). Mboya works between Kigali and Nairobi, and is a collaborative editor at the Wali Chafu Collective.
MEMORY IS AN EDITING STATION
“Memory is an editing station—a nameless / passerby says, in a nonchalant manner, / and immediately hits delete and also / the meaning of what he wanted to say.” With these verses, the Brazilian poet Waly Salomão (1943–2003) begins the poem Open letter to John Ashbery, from 1995. The iconic sentence matches the celebratory mood of this edition of Videobrasil, which reaches its fortieth anniversary. It is therefore necessary not only to reflect on time and memory, but to revisit the importance of video in these four decades. If in 1983 it was mainly associated with the concentrated power of television, today, following the poet's reasoning, we tend to edit our own memories with our fingertips.
Let us read his sentence carefully: how does the equation between remembering and forgetting work out? What would we cut out and what would we insert into our memories? Which of the distressing events that have affected us collectively since the last edition of Videobrasil, in 2019, deserve thorough examination, such as the work on an editing station? What are the ethical boundaries of a cut? Who holds the power to do so? How can a sequence of images revisit narratives that concern a family, a nation, a region? How to forge the memory of what we didn't see or feel in our bodies? What are the limits of memory?
We received 2,726 submissions from the geopolitical region that we have agreed to call the Global South. In this occupation of Sesc 24 de Maio we present works by around sixty artists and collectives who, in dissonant ways, reflect on the intersections between image, memory, manipulation, fiction and oblivion. They come from countries as different as Colombia, Curaçao, Estonia, Iraq and New Zealand. However, far from trying to illustrate narratives that shape the idea of nation and belonging, these image creators prefer to tamper with the public's imagination and expectations surrounding their places of origin.
Historically, as its name suggests, Videobrasil has focused on sharing and debating the audiovisual production. Here, continuing the expansion of languages that started in 2011, viewers will find photography, printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and installation; yes, video is still in the foreground, but the ways in which it is shared do vary. Wouldn't it be opportune to offer enjoyable video experiences that respond not only to the recent technological renovations, but also to reflections on its already historical apparatuses? In a year of review of the event's four decades, visitors will be stimulated by flashes, noises and movements inside dark rooms, tube television sets, video walls, LED panels, tablets and projectors.
The 22nd Videobrasil Biennial is the result of the devoted work not only of the artists who make part of it, but of a team of professionals who have been anxiously preparing for this moment over the last years. Just like any other exhibition, this one comprises a set of ephemera that one day will serve as elements of narratives articulated in new edition stations. Due to the uncertainty as to the duration of these future memories, let us make the most of these months of biennial and enjoy the existential visions brought here in the heat of the moment through its exhibitions and public programs.
Every end is a beginning that is another end; this is the serpentine of the back-and-forth curves that make up our brain, VHS tapes and hard drives. When we disappear, as so many artists have taught us, maybe the reproductions and exhibition copies of these works will remain—maybe! If these images do not materially withstand the test of time, we will have our mouths to report them.
As long as there is life, there will be memory.
Raphael Fonseca and Renée Akitelek Mboya
SESC 24 DE MAIOJardim da Piscina, Sesc 24 de Maio, Rua 24 de Maio 109, Centro, São Paulo.Credit: © Alberto S. Cerri.
Inaugurated in 2017, Sesc 24 de Maio is located in a neuralgic region of downtown São Paulo. It is located on the corner of Rua 24 de Maio and Rua Dom José de Barros, close to Vale do Anhangabaú and the Municipal Theater, Praça da República and iconic buildings in the city, such as Esther, Itália, and Copan. The project is a realization by Paulo Mendes da Rocha with Estúdio MMBB Arquitetos, covers 27 thousand square meters of covered area, and contributes to the recovery of this remarkable area of the city.