35th São Paulo Biennial: Choreographies of the Impossible

Ibirapuera Park, Sep-Dec/23

This week the São Paulo Biennial launched its thirty-fifth iteration. With a vibrant selection of 121 participants, this walloping show unites mostly diasporas and native people – 80% of them self-declare as being black or indigenous. Thus, it questions the idea of contemporary art mainly being a white people’s field and broadens the discussions on contemporary art. It all goes under the “Choreographies of the Impossible” theme, developed by a horizontal curatorial group of Diane Lima, Grada Kilomba, Hélio Menezes, and Manuel Borja-Villel.


Its theme opens room for new practices of movements of ideas, bodies, and feelings through time and space, in spite of allegations of infeasibility. It becomes material in the new walls that have been built in the pavilion – they create new flows of people and lead them to an unused experience of the building. The show occupies the three-story Biennial Pavilion, a modernist location projected in the 1950s by Oscar Niemeyer specifically for hosting this event.

The works have various techniques and materials, and many of them have been commissioned. The list of participants encompasses individuals and collectives. Just to mention a few, Rommulo Vieira Conceição, Januario Jano, Tadáskía, Luana Vitra, Mahku, Bouchra Ouizguen, Dayanita Singh, Yto Barrada, Frente 3 de Fevereiro, Luiz de Abreu, Wifredo Lam, and Aline Motta.


I would like to briefly comment on selected works of Conceição, Jano, Singh, and de Abreu. Conceição’s commissioned installation, with its supermarket carts, can be seen as a shop where one can get whatever architectural elements they want to build their home, but with critical lenses. Tokens of poverty and violence are also present. Jano’s photographic installation depicts the artist taking off white clothes, which are memories of the violent impositions of the Portuguese, colonizers of Angola, the artist’s home country. Singh’s installation shows a touching video of an old woman murmuring a song while lying down on a couch, pointing to the deep memories of someone who loved dancing. De Abreu’s main video depicts a tall black man dancing naked in high heels embraced with the Brazilian flag and brings to question racism, issues on gender and nationalism.

When visiting this show with a guided tour by London Art Walk, you will be able to participate, before or after the tour, in an array of performances, activations of works, talks, and workshops that will take place during the whole event. You can also find places where to have meals and coffee inside the building. The São Paulo Biennial is comparable in relevance and quality to the Venice Biennial. Many people come from all around the world to visit it and the long list of galleries, museums, independent spaces, and studios that are boiling. We can help you have a smooth and unforgettable artsy visit to São Paulo.

Luis Sandes for London Art Walk
September 2023