May You Live in Interesting Times, the motto that Ralph Rugoff selected to use as theoretical-creative frame of the 58th Venice Biennale fits extraordinary in the Brazilian Pavilion. Represented by the curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro and the duo of artists Bárbara Wanger & Benjamin de Burca (working partners since 2011), the Latin-American country will assume a very important political and social role in Venice reflecting the deepest traits of post-colonial and contemporary Brazilian culture, in its jewels as well in its decadences.

By Matías Helbig
Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca, 2018 @ Chico Barros.

¡Read more about 58th Venice Biennial here!


With a prolific career as curator, Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro (La Coruña, Spain, 1970) was selected by the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo in order to make the curatorial decisions of what will be the Brazilian participation of the 2019 edition of the Venice Biennale. The election of Pérez-Barreiro was a suggestion done by the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo to the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. João Carlos de Figueiredo Ferraz, president of the Fundação Bienal, explains that “the appointment of Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro is due to the wide knowledge the curator has demonstrated about Brazilian art, to his good integration with the Fundação’s team, and to the affinity between the concepts he mobilised at the 33rd Bienal de São Paulo and those proposed for the 58th Venice Biennale.”

Regarding the artists, for those who already know their production, it is not necessary to enter into details why they will represent Brazil at this emblematic Biennale. Bárbara Wagner (Brasilia 1980) and Benjamin de Burca (Munich 1975) live and work at the northeast coastal city of Recife (Pernambuco, Brazil). Their productions, generally audiovisual pieces, manipulate –always positioned at the fiction-documentary border- topics and themes of the most traditional Brazilian culture and its links with contemporaneity. Through the contemporary and folkloric dances and music, these two artists allocate in an uncomfortable position the real interests behind the preservation of this practices. An example of it is the FAZ QUE VAI (2015) project, an audiovisual register of classical Brazilian dancers who represent all the traditional Brazilian culture, but as in order to live of it, must carry forward their dances for commercial purposes, decontextualizing completely the ritual functions of these dances. The artists wrote: “As a series of annotations on the relations between body, camera and movement present in the documentation of a typical dance of the Northeast of Brazil, FAZ QUE VAI (SET TO GO) comments on the meanings of the carnivalesque within diverse strategies of preservation of Frevo – a Municipal Dance School- as an image, heritage and product.”



Also, Wagner and Burca address class conflicts, the religious influence -mainly evangelic- and gender issues in Brazil. It is there, I believe, where the most relevant work of this artists at the Venice Biennale within Brazil political context since January 1st, with Jair Bolsonaro´s assumption as President of Brazil, takes place. In Pérez-Barreiro’s words: “Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca bring a critical and simultaneously comprehensive view to the enormous plurality of the current moment, pointing to the way in which popular culture absorbs and interprets the images and phenomena of everyday life and the mass media, incorporating them to their own reality.”

With its participation in the Brazilian (Pavilion built in 1964) at the Venice Biennale in its 58th edition, the performance of this trio -Pérez-Barreiro, Wagner and Burca- will be the evidence of the high level of artistic production through which the contemporary Brazilian scene moves and evolves nowadays.