10 highlights from 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas

Art Radar spotlights 10 artists in the São Paulo-based biennial art festival.

The 19th edition of the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil features 62 artists from 27 countries around the globe across three exhibitions in São Paulo, as well as a parallel show of work from the Videobrasil Collection.

19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas, 2015, installation view of selected artworks exhibition. Photo: Everton Ballardin. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas, 2015, installation view of selected artworks exhibition. Photo: Everton Ballardin. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas runs from 6 October to 6 December 2015, with 62 artists from 27 countries exhibiting in a three exhibitions as well as a rich programme of film screenings, performances and educational activities. A parallel exhibition entitled “Those Born For Adventure Don’t Stray From The Path – Artworks from Videobrasil Collection”, curated by Videobrasil’s Archive and Research Coordinator Diego Matos, will display works from the Association’s collection.

19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas, 2015, installation view of commissioned projects exhibition. Photo: Everton Ballardin. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas, 2015, installation view of commissioned projects exhibition. Photo: Everton Ballardin. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

2015 marks the 19th edition of the São Paulo-based biennial event founded in 1983 by Solange Farkas, its Chief Curator since its inception. Since 1992, the Festival has become a partnership between the original founder Associação Cultural Videobrasil (Cultural Association Videobrasil) and Sesc São Paulo (Serviço Social do Comércio) – an entity working on cultural and educational projects veered towards social and economic development.

Yto Barrada, 'Wallpaper Tangier', from the series "The Strait Project", 2011, photograph, 400 x 400 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Yto Barrada, ‘Wallpaper Tangier’, from the series “The Strait Project”, 2011, photograph, 400 x 400 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

For years, the Festival has provided a platform for “spreading, fostering and reflecting” on art production from the Global South, which includes Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania and some countries in Europe and Asia. Taking into account the geopolitical changes that are taking place and reshaping notions of North and South, the Curatorial Committee selects artists and artworks by focusing on

The global South and its myriad issues – concerning diasporas, hybrid identities, migration flows and travels, personal accounts, memories, isolation, the social fabric, and insularity […].

Abdoulaye Konaté, 'Le crayon', 2015, textile, 237 x 197 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Le Crayon’, 2015, textile, 237 x 197 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

The co-curators for the 19th edition are Bernardo José de Souza, Bitu Cassundé, João Laia and Júlia Rebouças. Among the five guest artists are French-Moroccan Yto Barrada and Abdoulaye Konaté from Mali.

On 10 October, the Award Jury of the Festival, composed of Hoor Al-Qasimi (United Arab Emirates), N’Goné Fall (Senegal), Priscila Arantes (Brazil), Till Fellrath (Switzerland) and Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy (Mexico), announced its 11 winners and three honourable mentions.

Art Radar profiles 10 artists and their artworks featured at this year’s Festival.

Hui Tao, 'Talk about body', 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Hui Tao, ‘Talk About Body’, 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

1. Hui Tao | China | Talk about body (2013)

In his graphic arts, painting, video, object and installation, Hui Tao interweaves elements from Chinese tradition and technology to question notions of globalisation, virtual relationships and hegemonic thinking. His works typically display a coexistence of the contradictions that form contemporary China, such as different time periods and cultures, urban settings and rural living.

Hui Tao is the winner of the Festival’s Grand Prize, for his video Talk about body (2013), which utilises the language of Chinese TV shows to discuss the dichotomy between tradition and progress at the basis of contemporary Chinese society. Wearing a Muslim woman’s dress, the artist talks about himself, bringing to the fore questions of belonging and identity.

Haroon Gunn-Salie, 'Sunday Best', 2014, sculpture. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Haroon Gunn-Salie, ‘Sunday Best’, 2014, sculpture. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

2. Haroon Gunn-Salie | South Africa| Sunday Best (2014)

Haroon Gunn-Salie’s collaborative practice relies on dialogue and exchange. He translates orally-transmitted stories from different communities into interventions and installations, with sculptures and site-specific works. The role of the spectator is paramount as a participant who complements the work. The artist addresses issues related to Apartheid, as well as the resistance of Islam against the regime. His work has been exhibited at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Gunn-Salie won the Special Prize | SP-Arte/Videobrasil for Sunday Best (2014) – despite its small scale, a monument, or perhaps more correctly an anti-monument. The sculpture recreates an artwork originally created by writer Susan Lewis, which referenced the Apartheid decree that forbid black South Africans from living in District Six in Cape Town, once one of the most cohesive multicultural areas in the city.

Ali Cherri, 'The Disquiet', 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Ali Cherri, ‘The Disquiet’, 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

3. Ali Cherri | Lebanon / France | The Disquiet (2013)

Ali Cherri’s diverse practice spans video, installation, performance, multimedia art, objects and printing. His work engages with the fragile geopolitical landscape of Lebanon and its neighbouring countries, and often results in a reflection on catastrophe in its sublime dimension. Exploring a place hovering between the physical and the digital, the real and the virtual, he represents violence that has yet to be elaborated or is disconnected from any particular perpetrator.

Cherri received an Honourable Mention by the Festival Award Jury for The Disquiet (2013), a video that connects the unstable socio-political landscape of Lebanon and the Middle East to its geological site – four geological fault lines cut through Lebanon’s territory. The analogy presents a powerful message that reveals the immeasurable and destructive force waged by conflict in the region.

Michael MacGarry, 'Excuse me, while I disappear', 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Michael MacGarry, ‘Excuse Me, While I disappear’, 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

4. Michael MacGarry | South Africa | Excuse me, while I disappear (2014)

Michael MacGarry’s work addresses the ramifications of modern-day Western imperialism in the African continent, engaging with subjects such as the dynamics of natural resource extraction in post-independence African states. He works with film, sculpture, photography and artist’s books, and his short films explore issues of identity, African science fiction and the legacy of modernism.

MacGarry received an Honourable Mention by the Jury for Excuse me, While I Disappear (2014), a video that explores an urban development in Luanda, Angola – Kilamba Kiaxi – and one of his inhabitants’ work day. The video questions the adequacy of the real estate development, which offers living space out of reach for the majority of the population, as well as the dire working conditions faced by citizens of a contemporary neoliberal system.

Taus Makhacheva, 'Gamsutl', 2012, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Taus Makhacheva, ‘Gamsutl’, 2012, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

5. Taus Makhacheva | Russia| Gamsutl, 2012, video

Taus Makhacheva’s performance-based practice takes the form of video, photography and installation. As a Russian descendant of the Avar ethnic group, originally of the Republic of Dagestan on the Caucasus mountains, she reflects on the significance and role of traditional heritage in contemporary society. Meditating on the natural, the cultural, identity and otherness, she questions culture and gender norms.

Makhacheva also received an Honourable Mention from the Jury for Gamsutl (2012), a video that explores the ruins of an Avare village. The abandoned, dilapidated landscape functions as a metaphor for the fate of the Avare, whose isolation led them to social and economic disappearance. The work is both a political critique and poetic commentary on the transformations taking place in the Global South.

Ting-Ting Cheng, 'The Atlas of Places do not exist', 2015, installation. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Ting-Ting Cheng, ‘The Atlas of Places Do Not Exist’, 2015, installation. Photo: Everton Ballardin. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

6. Ting-Ting Cheng | Taiwan | The Atlas of Places Do Not Exist (2013)

Cheng Ting-Ting explores how text, image and language intersect to configure notions of identity, belonging and culture. Through video, photography and installation, the artist explores subjects such as outsiders’ notions of her home country in Lonely Planet Taiwan (2013) or the excess of information in society today and our involuntary ‘absorption’ of it in Involuntary Reader (2013).

At Southern Panoramas, Cheng is showing The Atlas of Places Do Not Exist (2013), an installation that recreates a library with approximately 500 books in Portuguese and English about non-existent or fictitious places. The artist explores the dichotomy of existence and visibility, referring to the current geopolitical landscape in which existent, real places are regarded as non-existent while others occupy a major position in the world. The artist also reflects on how language and varying degrees of knowledge can be exploited politically.

Köken Ergun, 'Bayrak (The Flag)', 2006, video installation. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Köken Ergun, ‘Bayrak (The Flag)’, 2006, video installation. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

7. Köken Ergun | Turkey | Bayrak (The Flag) (2006)

Köken Ergun worked in theatre before starting his career as an artist. He creates multi-channel video installations, incorporating video and performance. His work, based on anthropology and empathy, explores the multitude of intertwined social issues, focusing on nationalism and marginalised communities as well as the political and social aspects of their rituals. The artist is particularly interested in the way in which such groups forge their identity and social unity.

At Southern Panoramas, Ergun presents Bayrak (The Flag) (2006), a video installation with images shot on 23 April, during Children’s Day and the anniversary of the establishment of Turkey’s Parliament following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The nationalistic speeches filled with intolerance, such as “destroy the nest of any bird that will not hail its country’s flag”, starkly contrast with the optimistic and carefree spirit that the idea of Children’s Day conveys.

Chulayarnnon Siriphol, 'Myth of Modernity', 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Chulayarnnon Siriphol, ‘Myth of Modernity’, 2014, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

8. Chulayarnnon Siriphol | Thailand | Myth of Modernity (2014)

Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s practice takes inspiration from personal memories and Thai political events. His films, documentaries and experimental videos explore notions of transitoriness, using satire and images with superimposed karaoke-style text. His work is a reflection on Thai culture and its contradictions, such as the use of Buddhism for political purposes.

In Myth of Modernity (2014), Siriphol interweaves documentary and fiction to explore the impact of modernism in Thai culture, especially as seen in its architecture. The work becomes a sci-fi video when a pyramid of light appears to hyptonise the population. Siriphol reflects on questions of power and how it is perpetuated throughout history and through symbols such as architectural forms.

Dor Guez, 'Bypass', 2013, installation. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Dor Guez, ‘Bypass’, 2013, installation. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

9. Dor Guez | Israel | Bypass (2013)

Dor Guez incorporates his cultural origins as a descendant of Palestinian Christians and Tunisian Jews into his practice and his approach towards Arab culture. From his vantage point, he re-contextualises visual and written documents through photography and installation. The artist questions the metanarratives of nations, as well as the role of contemporary art in non-written storytelling and its ability to disrupt these narratives.

In Bypass (2013), Guez shows a path in Jerusalem, used daily by Palestinians who work there. The work provides a parallel between the trek and the Wall of Israel, built to protect the country from terrorists and also denounced as a move to occupy the West Bank. With new data on the region appearing with each image, Guez constructs a narrative that represents the complexities of an unstable relationship between people.

Kush Badhwar, 'Blood Earth', 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

Kush Badhwar, ‘Blood Earth’, 2013, video. Image courtesy the artist and Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.

10. Kush Badhwar | India / Australia | Blood Earth (2013)

Kush Badhwar’s films and photography take the form of artistic interventions with makeshift political engagements, where the protagonists are the social actors. His work is meant to transform and subvert the definitions of traditional mass media. The artist engages with the political situation in India, particularly investigating the political and social environments and how they respond to violence.

Badhwar’s video Blood Earth (2013) in Southern Panoramas offers a portrait of conflict in modern day India. The work portrays the bauxite-rich village of Kucheipadar in India’s Odisha state, inhabited by the Adivasis. The artist alternates between peaceful depictions of the Adivasis’ daily life and the violent clashes and their political struggles to counter the invasive mining industry.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Chinese artists, African artists, Lebanese artists, Russian artists, Taiwanese artists, Turkish artists, Thai artists, Israeli artists, Indian artists, Australian artists, art festivals, biennials, events in São Paulo, lists

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