World Biennial Forum No 2
How to Make Biennials in Contemporary Times
26 – 30 November, 2014
Auditório Ibirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil


1 - Mapa Mundi (World Map) 1979 Oil on linen

2014 has heralded what seems to be a reawakening of potential in international art biennials. From Istanbul to Sydney and Saint Petersburg to São Paulo, an exhibition form that was threatening to slide into neoliberal conformism has again become the site of conflict and controversy. While the dilemmas of each biennial have their own origins, these developments will, in general, bring a renewed engagement in the symbolic value of biennials and the ways they can be contested in public. It is in this spirit of questioning and provoking the concept of the biennial form, that the World Biennial Forum No 2 has been assembled.

The World Biennial Forum No 2 will look at the biennial from the point of view of the southern hemisphere. It will concentrate above all on recent biennials in what has come to be termed the ‘Global South’, occasionally taking a broader perspective to investigate how we have arrived here. The main focus will be on the cities of Dakar, Istanbul, Jakarta and São Paulo, where the Forum takes place, but also other southern biennials will come into the picture.

The four focus cities have been staging biennials in different forms over at least the past 20 years, during which time they have invented new traditions and created suitable structures to support and develop them. At a time when the relationship between artistic desire and political will is under negotiation more broadly and biennials are seen simultaneously as both opportunities for harvesting cultural capital and threats to the smooth operation of the status quo, these biennials will serve as the anchor points for a more general discussion about what the potential of biennials is in contemporary times.

Image credit: Juan Downey, Mapa Mundi, 1979. Oil on linen. 180 x 205. Photo: Harry Shunk. Courtesy of Marilys Belt Downey, The Juan Downey Estate.

Program World Biennial Forum No 2

Wednesday, 26 November

7:30 p.m.

Peter Osborne – Keynote Speaker
Contemporaneity and the Biennial Form

Thursday, 27 November

3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion
Once Again, as If for the First Time: archives, biennial memory and the balance between continuity and reinvention

Anthony Gardner
Fabio Cypriano
Fernando Oliva
Martin Grossmann, moderator


6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Panel Discussion
Works and Their Changing Places: the interpretation of artworks and their relations to space and time

Övül Durmusoglu
Marina Fokidis
Lucy Steeds
Moacir dos Anjos, moderator

Friday, 28 November

3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion
No More Imagined Communities: creating new biennials beyond national art competitions and neoliberal city marketing

Anne Szefer Karlsen
David Teh
Manuela Moscoso
Ana Paula Cohen, moderator


6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Panel Discussion
Popularity without Populism: education, ideology and exchange

Reem Fadda
Elvira Dyangani Ose
Cayo Honorato
Ana Magalhães, moderator

9 p.m. – Closing address
Ivo Mesquita
– Guest of Honor

Saturday, 29 November

Optional Program
10 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Introduction by the curators to the 31st São Paulo Biennial. Venue: Biennial Pavilion.

11 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Visit to the 31st Biennial.

Sunday, 30 November

Optional Program
11 a.m. – Visit to the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.

Download here the Program Overview: Program_WBFNo2

Taking the Idea of the ‘Global South’ as a Starting Point


Taking the idea of the ‘Global South’ as a starting point, a term we understand as one that is still in the process of definition, the World Biennial Forum No 2 will look at how this geography shapes the current condition of world biennials.

What pitfalls and possibilities might southern biennials present for biennial cultures in (sometimes desperate) need of renovation? What happens to the form of the biennial when biennials become part of a world system of art institutions subject to a global temporality? Can a biennial occur as the expression of a common will, or as a desire for the formation of a public sphere? Who are biennials organized for? And does love have anything to do with it?

These are some of the questions the World Biennial Forum No 2 will pose.

Image Credit: 31st Bienal. Sofia Colucci, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

4 Workshops on Biennial Practice

On both days of the Forum, workshops will take place, moderated by the artistic directors. In these workshops (closed to the audience), biennial representatives and invited professionals engaged with biennial politics will discuss issues closely related to the Forum’s themes.

Invited respondents to the Workshops on Biennial Practice: Koyo Kouoh, Azar Mahmoudian, Combiz Mousavi Aghdam, Patrick Mudekereza, Yvette Mutumba, Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Eva Scharrer, Alya Sebti, and Suzana Sousa.

The first dayʼs workshops will focus on how biennial histories are accounted for and preserved. Once Again, as If for the First Time will look at biennial institutions as a whole, discussing how they both reproduce themselves and radically change over time. Works and Their Changing Places will discuss particular artworks and their appearance in different biennial contexts.

The second day will look broadly at the question of how a public is constructed through biennials, while considering the different criteria for what a public is. To this end, No More Imagined Communities will focus on the emergence of new biennials in the Global South, while Popularity without Populism will look at specific public and educational ambitions.

Thursday, November 27
10 a.m. – 1 p.m – 2 workshops

Friday, November 28
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. – 2 workshops


 The 31st São Paulo Biennial


The 31st Bienal de São Paulo is curated by Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente, Luiza Proença, Oren Sagiv, and Benjamin Seroussi.

The title – How to (…) Things that Don’t Exist is a poetic invocation of art’s ability to create new objects, thoughts and possibilities. The sentence has a variable formula that constantly changes, anticipating the actions that might make present in contemporary life the things that don’t exist, are not recognized, or have not yet been invented.

With 81 projects and more than 100 participants from 34 countries, totaling around 250 artworks on display, the exhibition has been conceived as a journey through the Pavilion divided into three different areas: park area, ramp area and columns area. Along the journey, visitors will encounter projects that are grounded in contemporary life and particularly touch on aspects of religion, social conflict, sexuality, ecology, and identity.

In the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, we have tried to bring together artists that tackle the complexities of today when the end of the modern meets the still uncertain beginnings of a new system of thinking, suggests the curatorial team.

More than half the projects have been made specifically for the exhibition, many by international artists who have produced work in response to a residency in the city and the opportunity to travel further in Brazil.

31st Bienal de São Paulo
6 September – 7 December 2014

Overview of the Projects and Participants: 31Bienal EN