Mercosur Biennial 2011 gets rid of the show

by Ana Martínez Quijano

The Mercosur Biennial opened its eighth edition last week with Ensayos de Geopoéticas (Essays in Geopoetics), dedicated to explore from the unique perspective of art, political and territorial issues which bring into play concepts such as nation, state, identity, maps and borders.

With a budget of 12 million reales, the Biennial is displayed in the wonderful architecture of the Harbor Warehouses, Art Museum of Rio Grande do Sul, Santander Cultural, where the Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn was honored, House M and nine strategic locations in Porto Alegre, to perform various actions.

Mercosur Biennial 2011 gets rid of the show

The Colombian curator José Roca, addressed topics worked for years, and gave a strong conceptual support to a different Biennial. His proposal requires reading, thinking and even back to back looking at the works in detail.

The curator had the luxury of getting rid the show and “safe” artists names repeated in the biennials. He called as guests the experienced curator Aracy Amaral and hired Pablo Helguera, from Mexico, as education curator. They play roles that cannot be delegated to others.

The assembly has a museum perspective. The surface of the immense warehouses only interrupted by the containers that host the videos of Geopoetics and some works that are actually countries, kingdoms or states investigated by Roca fictitious. Sealand is a "micro nation" of 500 meters set in 1967 by a British former soldier and "NSK State" is a country created by a Slovenian group, which issues passports and meet some functions like other nations, although its territory confined to the halls of art.

The dominance of conceptual rigor is evident, but the Biennial opens to the port through the eloquent metaphor of art that calls for a treaty, a work of great visual appeal. In the first warehouse a number of white flags stuck on a wall, while their colors and emblems like paint spilled liquid on the wall. The author, Leslie Shows lives in San Francisco and explores as "a natural" - the tendency toward disorder and chaos.
Shows calls for a truce and its counterpart is Manuela Ribadeneira´s work. The Venezuelan artist sticks a knife into a wall, and on the brief shadow cast by the handle, hand-written: "I do mine this territory". Small and meaningful work in a gesture sums up the spirit of the conqueror and the high degree of violence that inspires it.

Hard borders of Mexico are the subject of the melancholy video installation of Edgar Aragon, showing different musicians standing under the desert sun on some markers that divide the territory, while they are performing a painful and poetic dirge.

The sublime is present, almost as a concession, the video of the Spanish Cristina Lucas, La liberté raisonnée, and is an appropriation of the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty Leading the People". The artist breathes life into the characters and movement to the painting. Her story ends in disappointment, when the Liberty advanced to fall and victimized, finally, by the heroes that followed. Beyond the emotional message of Liberty unguarded, the work appeals to the succession of scenes that enhance the beauty and drama reached by Delacroix.

Fernando Bryce transports the paper through drawing and laborious manual procedures, the images of newspaper headlines, documents, photographs and flyers. Bryce painted and drawn by choice and in this election is so characteristic of today found their way, a method he calls "mimetic analysis." With his virtuosity and his office, the artist worked for a year for Revolution, a number referring to Cuban history that consists of 219 drawings. Despite the supposed technical anachronism, his laborious task guarantees the presence of subjectivity, the chance to highlight or be selective in telling the story through images.

Several Biennial artists, as the Peruvian Bryce -who lives in Berlin-, are living far from the territory in which they were born. From five Argentines taking part, four living abroad: Irene Kopelman, Miguel Angel Rios, Alberto and Pablo Bronstein Lastreto.

Alicia Herrero, of Buenos Aires, presents Viaje revolucionario. Novela navegada (Revolutionary journey. Navigated novel) from its title the work reflects the romantic spirit of the travel books of Che Guevara before the warrior arrived in Cuba and became an icon. Then the plot of the novel is developed and defined schematic drawing white lines on a black surface.

The argentinian Lastreto lives in Montevideo. His video El Prócer (hero) is a photo animation where you can see a monument, a rider on a pedestal that holds the unstable equilibrium positions. The heroes are scarce in the world and Lastreto watch with irony the rhetorical posturing of public sculpture.

Kopelman is also Argentinian, was born in Cordoba and lives in Amsterdam. Along with the artists selected by Amaral, she was invited several months ago to explore the canyon region, while their peers were leaving for Misiones o the Pampa. Her works are the result of the expedition: a block of clay, broken into pieces that reproduce the shapes of the rocks faceted drew tirelessly in a canyon. Bronstein lives in London and (her or his) theme is universal: architecture. Rios lives between USA and Mexico and their hypnotic and rhythmic videos are usually seen in Argentina, reflecting the violence. Another Argentine, Karina Granieri came as curator at Casa M, a space created by the curator Rock to explore the possibility that "there is not only Biennial exhibition, but extends over time with continuous action, so as not to runs out like fireworks”. Therefore, Porto Alegre has a nice House for speeches, debates and interviews, where several of the 105 members of the Biennial artists have the opportunity to talk about their work.

There, the Chilean Isabel Aninat gallery accompanied their artist Voluspa Jarpa who is dedicated to research and publish the "no history" of the past 40 years, declassified by the U.S. secret services, related to the Southern Cone countries. "The interest lies in the data that remain hidden, erased, illegible," the artist said and shows one of the volumes on display in a library of the Biennial and that she will present at the upcoming Istanbul Biennial. In House M, was the author of Cuadernos de viaje (Travel logs), the Chilean Bernardo Oyarzun, a genuine Mapuche that shaped with his hands the huge mud letters in the Guarani language, a phrase he himself translated: "The soul does not receive it all done but do in life". For the demanding intellectual exercise, Geopoetics, the work Slavs and Tartars, a bed covered with silky carpet where spectators can sit.

The exhibition of Amaral, The South Residence, is overwhelming, and the phantasmagoria of the videos of Cao Guimaraes and the enormous landscape painting by Gal Weinstein with tapestries, on the vast central hall of the museum. "This is not the Biennial of the flags and maps" Roca said before leaving, although he accepted that are inevitable. However, in a world where market institutions that wield more power than the states, his "Essay", as the text of Borges Del Rigor en la ciencia (The rigor in science), which speaks of Disciplinas Geográficas (Disciplines of Geography), illuminates the difficulty of recognizing a map never match the territory.