“Her Eminence the Influence”
In 1995 the Ministry of Culture of Brazil made the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo responsible for the Brazilian pavilion for the Venice Biennial. The Venezuelan Luis Pérez-Oramas, chief curator for the São Paulo Biennial of 2012, was appointed by the Fundação Bienal and chose to exhibit five different artists for the 2013 Brazilian representation at the Giardini. Pérez-Oramas used to be the curator of the Patricia Phelps Cisneros collection from 1995 to 2005 and has been working as Estrellita Brodsky, the curator of Latin American Art at MoMA-NY, since 2006. Both Cisneros and Brodsky come from Venezuelan US-based families that financially support art institutions such as the Tate and the Centre Pompidou, as well as several universities for programs related to Latin American Art.
Though it is not the first time that the Brazilian modernist pavilion hosts non-Brazilian artists, it is the first time that non-living artists are included to compose Brazil’s national representation in Venice. Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, who died in 1988 and also participated in the pavilion in 1954, 1962, and 1968, is the only female artist in the 2013 show. Her production has become the canon of Brazilian experimentalism during the 60s and 70s and her presence could be seen as a politically correct move to counterbalance the composition of the group show. The choice of Swiss artist Max Bill should be given an accurate attention. His participation in the first edition of the São Paulo Biennial in 1951, where he was granted the first prize for international sculpture, has been constantly used by official historiography to build a predominantly Eurocentric and linear narrative in a cause and effect logic trapping Brazilian art in an ever dependent colonized position. Rather than formulating a complex multi directional and layered panorama of long-term cultural exchange that could contribute to challenge hegemonic and dominant narratives, the structure within the show reinforces prejudicial ideas such as origin, influence, and historical debt.
Is it not the case that in this ratio almost any contemporary Brazilian artist could perfectly fit the sequence that starts with Munari, Bill, and Lygia Clark: concrete, neoconcrete, and contemporary? And to what extent is Pérez-Oramas’s attempt at a national representation of Brazil not at the same time an erasure of Brazil’s possible construction of provisional identities for the sake of a static and instrumentalized global, modern image?Amilcar Packer