James Trainor

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27th São Paulo Biennial Preview

27th São Paulo Biennial Preview

Chief Curator Lisette Lagnado’s pioneering approach to the work of Hélio Oiticica will be incorporated into the framework of the next Biennial.

frieze, Issue 96, Jan/Feb 2006

James Trainor: When you were appointed Chief Curator of the 27th Biennial of the São Paulo, what was the first thing you wanted to change?

Lisette Lagnado: I proposed an end to the so-called national representations. This is an obsolete system for an exhibition of international calibre, especially in São Paulo, and is an insult to the organic lines of Oscar Niemeyer’s building. Furthermore, in socio-political terms, the large migrations of the 20th century have diluted the notion of a national identity without cultural miscegenation. In other big, international exhibitions, for example, Meschac Gaba has represented the Netherlands, Mona Hatoum, the United Kingdom, and Anri Sala, France. The concept of ‘national representations’ is, in my view, something that belittles artists, and tends to highlight richer countries while smacking of benevolence to the poorer countries. We are born in one city, assimilate into another culture, get married in yet another country and sometimes even die elsewhere. Although the structure of the show might follow the two main blocks, ‘construction projects’ and ‘living projects’, it will not have any divisions, either by countries or by aesthetic categories. To do so, would also be to betray the programme of Hélio Oiticica who, when participating in the show ‘Information’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, made it very clear that he was not there to represent any country or nationality. And that was 35 years ago! The structure of the São Paulo Biennial, or rather, the flow between the works, will be determined by the affinities between them, thus constructing a kind of spatial narrative. If possible, the work of more ‘historical’ artists will not be placed alongside that of his or her contemporaries, but rather juxtaposed with something more contemporary. My project includes dead artists, the presence of whom will determine the topicality of questions asked decades earlier. This does not mean that the São Paulo Biennial will have a series of ‘historical rooms’, but rather that it will place work ‘in context’. Many of its concerns will relate to the local audience.

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