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November 1, 2006

São Paulo Biennial

The 27th São Paulo Biennial forgoes national representation to survey works from 118 international artists exploring difference, coexistence, and collaboration in myriad ways. The exibition's title "Como viver junto" ("How to Live Together") is taken from a lecture series given by French philosopher and theorist Roland Barthes in the '70s and aims to express "an ethical sense of Living-Together." While physical and linguistic boundaries are exposed and challenged, no quick fixes or easy answers are provided.

Slovenia-based Marjetica Potrc fabricates architectural "case studies" in which contemporary building strategies, from Latin America to Europe to South Africa, are juxtaposed and hybridized, revealing sociocultural conflicts and overlaps. Italian artist Monica Bonvicini takes another tack, breaking structures down. A new video installation chronicles the demolition of a wall, and is complemented by a performance featuring four men destroying the walls of a white cube with their bodies.

Meschac Gaba, originally from Benin, leaves the process of construction to his viewers, providing them with the building blocks for a Museum of Contemporary African Art, while Rirkrit Tiravanija shelters not art, but tropical plants, in a steel house aptly titled Palm Pavilion.

A native of Brazil, Marepe's work is rooted in localisms. He transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, turning umbrellas and construction tools into art objects, and has, in the past, collaborated with children to produce utilitarian items, such as sandals, from scavenged materials. Turkish artist Esra Ersen also highlights the vernacular as a constantly shifting phenomenon; in one of her videos, immigrants to Sweden are asked what they would say if they could speak Swedish. More recently, she orchestrated an extreme "makeover" of a resident of Liverpool as a metaphor for the exclusion of residents' voices in the city's redevelopment plan.

Text art guru Lawrence Weiner had a rare moving-image presence during the Biennial’s Fortnight of Films in October with films A First Quarter and A Second Quarter. The best of his followers, Korean-American duo Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries, playfully stir things up with a new bilingual version of their Flash animation END CREDITS.


The São Paulo Biennial continues through December 17.

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