Text by head curator Solange Farkas, 2017
A quick glance at the international art scene leaves no doubt: the South is everywhere. The acknowledgment of this presence and, therefore, of the importance of this viewpoint in any global ensemble of voices confirms the sound strategy of betting on production from countries in the region, outlined over two decades ago and expressed above all in the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil. Since its founding in 1983, the Festival has sought to foster interaction between Brazilian production and its interlocutors from other countries in the South, connecting the narratives and concerns that emerge from research developed by its artists. The key role recently played by such production in large international exhibitions is just one sign that the art world of the “North” has recognized the need to take part of and enhance dialogue related to or stemming from the South.
No wonder that, for the first time, the organization and production efforts of the 20th Festival are entirely focused on Southern Panoramas, which occupy multiple spaces of Sesc Pompeia in São Paulo, branched out into exhibition, video program, and performances, besides a series of activation initiatives, many of them involving the artists themselves. Comprising proposals and portfolios submitted by artists from various southern regions in response to an open call, the content of the 20th Festival reaffirms the strategic importance of a mechanism that enables widespread scrutiny of uncharted areas of artistic production in other regions, unveiling research that has not yet been acknowledged, absorbed, or endorsed by the art system. If it involves risk and effort—submissions have increased exponentially with each new edition of the Festival—the selection process based on open call remains the most democratic form of assembling a set of artwork that lives up to the power and diversity of what is produced in this symbolic axis, despite the ever-limiting endorsement from the market.
It comes as no surprise to see a production historically grounded on resistance and political vocation flourishing and refining itself in times of self-inflicted crisis, regression, loss of rights, and absolute uncertainty. As we plunge deeper into a cycle of radical positions that may lead us anywhere, the desire to elaborate a symbolic narrative that lives up to the issues inherited from our past becomes increasingly pressing—as well as reviewing ideas about the future that have failed and, why not, sketching a less gloomy outlook than the one presently facing us. It is in this context that the use of video, identified by its very nature with the documentation of reality, has been revived. The need to tell so-called minor stories, which have been obscured by the increasingly bulky and ubiquitous discourse of big business, affords video a narrative scope that was once the privilege of film.
The emergence of new narratives, which demand space and venues to be heard, and the intense movement of socio-political reconfiguration are characteristic of these times, marked by the imminence of crisis at all levels. In the face of them, the group of artists selected for the 20th Festival expresses the desire to expand our way of looking at the world through practices that traverse the boundaries between art and science and move towards primordial curiosities: the origin of man and life, the evolution of the social dynamics that have defined us down the ages, our ways of doing politics. They suggest worldviews which, without losing focus of what is close, palpable and urgent, consider the poetry of the universe and of time.
From a different viewpoint, one could say that the selected works reaffirm the idea of resistance as one of the most important paradigms of human consciousness, capable of making us who we really are, who we want to be, and of retrieving our sense of humanity (to the detriment of the sense of power). This idea of resistance, which helped guide the curatorial thought of this edition, is not necessarily an adventure or an act of daring, but a model of exchange centered on the experience of survival; the artists use their visual vocabulary to construct it as movement, as momentum, in constellations where recalled or imagined facts are combined with the very act of reinvention.
The manifest option for research that produces powerful, nonbinary, and dissenting experiences of resistance, aimed at illuminating obscure recesses, reversing simplistic logics—and returning the gaze to where we are, to the origins of who we are, and to how we categorize our knowledge—translates our desire as an institution to move away from what we consider a progressive deflation of the discourses that circulate and shape the field of art. Our cultural context inflicts successive defeats on art’s ambition to provide relevant or even desirable symbolic experiences, thus benefiting other more palatable fields of culture. In opposition to the increasing irrelevance, and in many different ways, the production gathered in Southern Panoramas stands up to the progressive crushing of our horizons in order to preserve, albeit arduously, some prospect of a future.
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