José Roca, Chief curator, about his concept of Essays on Geopolitics, 8th Mercosul Biennial.

The Biennial is inspired by the tensions between local and transnational territories, between political constructs and geographical circumstances, and the routes of circulation and exchange of symbolic capital. The title refers to the various ways in which artists define territory, based on geographical, political and cultural perspectives. Biennials are primarily exhibition events that activate the art scene of a city for relatively short periods. However, as well as being recurrent, they are discontinuous – and that is their weak side: during the period between one biennial and another nothing usually happens, or very little, in terms of activation of the local art scene. The 8th Mercosul Biennial attempts to answer the following question: is it possible to organise a biennial whose emphasis is not exclusively an exhibition?

Our proposal includes extending the action of the Biennial in space and in time, understanding the chosen theme not just as a conceptual marker for reading contemporary art production, but rather as a strategy of curatorial action, suggesting the Biennial as an instance of creation and consolidation of local infrastructure. The 8th Biennial places emphasis on the educational component – a key feature of the Mercosul Biennial in relation to other biennials – by involving the education curator in the actual conception of the curatorial project. It thus introduces components of the curatorship as opportunities for articulating the education programme and in this way transcending the conventional trio of interpretation-mediation-service, which characterises educational actions in biennials and museums.

The 8th Mercosul Biennial expands into space, looking at the territory of Rio Grande do Sul as somewhere to be explored: several artists have travelled in the state as part of the Travel Notebooks and Beyond Frontiers components. The city of Porto Alegre is also seen as territory to be rediscovered: nine places in the city are being activated by non visual works in the component called Unseen City. Six alternative spaces in Latin America will have temporary bases in Brazil during the Biennial, being housed in similar spaces in Porto Alegre, Caxias do Sul and Santa Maria in a programme we have called Continents. Finally, there will be an extensive exhibition by the Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn, who has sent his Airmail Paintings by post from Santiago; parts of this exhibition will be shown in three cultural spaces in Rio Grande do Sul.

Those components extend the Biennial actions into the territory. To extend the Biennial actions in time, Casa M has been created as a meeting place for artists and the general public, with an extensive programme of music, theatre, art and literature activities, curatorial residences and film programmes. Casa M includes a meeting space and a reading room for consulting books, magazines and documents from the Biennial’s Documentation and Research Centre. The intention is to activate the local scene so that the emphasis is not just on the exhibition: artists’ participations will be concentrated in the monthly Showcase programme; three artists conceived permanent interventions for the building entrance, the library and the garden.

Read more about Bienal do Mercosul