To affirm that the river is a serpent corresponds to designating it not as a “natural resource” in the service of humans, but as a being endowed with a life, trajectory, and culture of its own. Beyond that, it means to conceive it as a hybrid entity, a serpent-like and dynamic aquatic-animal body, skillful in transposing limits of different natures. Incorporating this perspective that challenges the Western episteme, the current edition of Frestas – Triennial of Arts of SESC Sorocaba has as its motto the relationship between non-hegemonic modes of existence and the paths they invent.
In the exhibition, the project’s vulnerabilities, dissidences, and potencies stand out from other aspects that singularize such existences. To acknowledge these aspects as being decisive in the decolonial process includes not only questioning speciesism, but also dealing with human bodies in their racialized dimensions – recognizing the asymmetries that these phenomena carry. In contrast to dominating modes of existence, these lives often do not rely on open paths for their crossings. The invention and negotiation of other routes or destinies come about as a chance to reorient the courses that have been traced until now by society’s hegemonic fractions with their mechanisms of exclusion, exploitation, and violence. Drawing other paths involves conceiving alternative ways of understanding the world and interacting with it.
It is in this direction that SESC hopes to aim with its cultural action, fostering symbolic experiences dedicated to the search for ways out amidst a juncture with paths heading toward places we do not wish to arrive at, although we already have. Emblematic of these “places,” the Covid-19 pandemic interfered in the trajectory of Frestas, demanding its course to be altered. In this retracing, the Triennial doubles down on its bet for resilience, more immediately developing its Study Program in a virtual setting that, in 2021, will continue its next phase in person. If the river is a serpent, what can an exhibition come to be?
Danilo Santos de Miranda
Regional Director of SESC São Paulo
SESC – Serviço Social do Comércio [Social Service of Commerce] is a private, non-profit institution, created in 1946 by commerce and service entrepreneurs from all over Brazil. In the state of São Paulo, SESC has 42 centers that congregate their areas of action in the fields of culture, education, sports, leisure, and health. SESC São Paulo’s actions are guided by their educational character and search for social wellbeing, with a broad understanding of the term culture at its core. In this sense, the full accessibility of spaces and content offered by the institution bear in mind the democratization of cultural assets as a means of the individual’s autonomy.
In the field of Visual Arts, the institution takes on the role of diffusing artistic production, both contemporary and from other historical periods, as well as the intersections with other artistic languages, having as a guideline the realization of exhibitions for all audiences. It also carries out projects with installations, interventions, and performances, as well as activities of education and mediation in varied formats. Its focus is to offer qualified services both to scheduled groups and to spontaneous audiences, seeking, overall, to achieve a sensitive training and the stimulus of autonomy and the liberty of choice.
The river is a serpent: first act
The river is a serpent, the catalyst-title for the 3rd Frestas – Art Triennial, embraces a cosmovision in the heart of the strategies we had to elaborate and recreate to arrive here, and, as such, has taken its own path as a curatorial proposal, which has begun with the sum of meetings in dialogue with artists, educators, activists, and others who produce thought and knowledge.
In every bend along this trajectory we have sought and debated critical strategies for political, economic, and institutional negotiations, which equally transit through multiple natural, spiritual, and subjective ecosystems. Similarly, we encountered the effects of countless contradictions and reflected on the possibilities, potencies, and challenges that inhabit the limits between what is negotiable and what is not, crucial to the health of our curatorial process. Beyond ourselves, we have learned that such strategies come from paths that were already taken by other bodies that, being located in different historical times and spaces, were led to strive for permanence and access as the only means to ensure the maintenance of their existences.
Standing on the unstable grounds of contradiction, unlocked by the advance of neoliberal capital, as well as by the systemic processes that captures subjectivities in order to generate financial value and reenact colonial ethics, we aim to raise a few questions: how can we produce a way out when the impossibility to choose becomes our own choice? At times when we need to create ways of seeing and conceiving the world that are still not historically available to us, what kind of elastic, sinuous, and porous body we create? Situating ourselves in the realm of the secret that recovers resilience, what kinds of technologies we develop? What strategies of solidarity are possible, and what is said by the bodies that create such vast worlds while inhabiting asymmetric structures of power?
From the bends of the rivers that we navigated during our research trip, we could behold, in their serpent-like shapes meandering through a non-linear time, words full of images that would help us to translate the intangible experiences of contracts, conflicts, and agreements that we undergo. And so, the serpent as a metaphor expanded by its ample cosmology in the most varied mythical and cultural narratives serve us here as a glance to discuss the murky waters that govern contemporary plantation movements and their colonial geographies.
Flowing into the Sorocaba territory, we would like to think of an ethics that undoes already known modes of production of symbolic violence, placed in the relation of categorizing and fetishizing the other. And also to create new landscapes, investigating how codes and languages are created, and what mechanisms contribute to maintaining the infrastructures that regulate power dynamics, legitimize discourses, condition access, halt criticism, and forge an idea of pacification and consensus.
The river is a serpent because it hides and camouflages, and in between the unpredictable and the mystery, it creates strategies from its own movement.
The river is a serpent: second act
After a long breath in search of air, if there are no surprises when we look back at the words that are now well on their way, it is because we have learned that it is not possible to transpose a river’s bend and underestimate its effects. As we have written in what seemed to be our last lines, we know that the changes about to come will most likely not follow the same words, nor what they seek or flow. For this reason, to us, juxtaposing what we had elaborated in both texts highlights the design of the break.
Presentiments that had already been speculated by the group of artists, by people who construct thought, by communities with whom we have become involved and started a dialogue, gathered under the title The river is a serpent, have been manifesting themselves not only as a set of questions surrounding nature’s actions and its cyclical time, but above all as a cosmovision, performance, and technology that announced in its depths the imminent natural collapse that we now face under the name of a pandemic.
In this second act, this already announced catastrophe renders hypervisible the ways in which layers of violence overlap in the globe’s racial necropolis, opening even more precedents both for the politics of extermination, and the flattening of life, through systems of control and vigilance central to the neoliberal economy.
As we brought to the fore the project’s emphasis, we understood that part of the exercise of following the shape that the waters takes concerns the urgent and irretrievable choices we had to make when delving into Fresta’s conceptual and structural spheres. Despite the hopelessness and the strengthening of fear and anxiety, these bends and contours underscore the importance of continuing to create strategies in the face of the ecosystem’s total subordination to the atomic advancements of globalized capital, and of the social and subjective, climatic and microbiological effects that find themselves intensified in all classes vulnerable to degradation, in the most primordial aspects of life.
In view of how the strategies of negotiation we created or dove into prepared us until now, it was up to us intensifying such strategies by testing the limits of what was possible and necessary to do in the context of a contemporary art event. As such, by being careful so that the incentive for local practices is not mistaken for nationalist exaltations, so that individualism is not fixed as the only means of sociability, and so that virtuality does not compromise us, we have rethought the role of the exhibition apparatus according to a calendar of actions beginning in October 2020, which, as part of the platform, presents a Study Program composed of formative activities that aim at instigating radical educational practices, and at the same time encourage policies of redistribution and access.
The Program, formed by 15 artists, is accompanied by a public programming with a wide schedule of courses, seminars, talks, publication releases, and film and video screenings. By establishing a direct relation between the curatorship and the educational program, the goal is that this space of exchanges culminates, as soon as it is possible for us to be present, in a space of celebration and gathering that, until this moment and stemming from what we know, we can evoke as an exhibition. All of this being aware that from now on, the main characteristic of the exhibition is not its confined physicality, but everything that we do not know, will need to reimagine, and is about to come.
The river is a serpent because it hides and camouflages, and in between the unpredictable and the mystery, it creates strategies from its own movement.
(Rio de Janeiro, RJ – lives in São Paulo) is an autonomous curator, researcher, and holds a Master’s Degree in Social History of Culture by puc-rj. Founder and director of the platform Lastro – Intercâmbios Livres em Arte [Lastro – Free Exchanges in Art]. From anti–colonial perspectives, she works to conduct and articulate transdisciplinary and network processes of creation and learning. In collaboration with mam rj, she has coordinated the cataloging project of documents and work of Márcia X (1959–2005), which culminated, in 2013, in the artist’s monographic exhibition and the launching of the raisonné catalog. Between 2015 and 2016, she was part of the Visiting Curator program at the Visual Arts School of Parque Lage (RJ), which has developed into the basis for eav’s current Library | Documentation and Research Center. She was part of the curatorial commission of the 20th Contemporary Art Festival sesc_Videobrasil (2017) and Bolsa Pompulha (2018/2019), and has coordinated the artistic residency Travessias Ocultas – Lastro Bolívia [Hidden Crossings – Lastro Bolivia], which has become an exhibition in sesc Bom Retiro (SP, 2016/2017). She is currently part of the curatorial team of the 3rd Frestas – Triennial of Arts (Sorocaba, SP).
(Mundo Novo, BA) is an independent curator, critic, and researcher. She holds a Master’s Degree in Communication and Semiotics from puc-sp. Her work consists of experimenting with contemporary curatorship practices from a decolonial perspective. Currently, she is part of the curatorship team of the 3rd Frestas – Triennial of Arts of sesc–sp, and is the curator of the exhibition Os dias antes da quebra [The Days Before the Crash] at Pivô Satellite. Some of her main projects include founding the art education program AfroTranscendence; the curatorship, between 2016 and 2017, of Itaú Cultural’s exhibition program Diálogos ausentes [Absent Dialogues]; and the curatorship of the Valongo International Image Festival, in 2018 and 2019. She was also the co–curator of the PlusAfroT Residency, and of the collective exhibition Lost Body – Displacement as Choreography, both of which took place in Munich, Germany. She has been the jury for several selections and prize committees, a lecturer on the specialization course in Cultural Management at Itaú Cultural, and co–curator/organizer of the book Textos para ler em voz alta [Texts to Read Out Loud], which will be published in 2021 by the French publishing company Brook.
Curator(São Paulo, SP) is a curator and educator with a background in the Social Sciences. He takes part in the program Propositions for Non-Fascist-Living, organized by bak (base voor actuele kunst), in Utrecht, The Netherlands. With the curator Gabi Ngcobo, he has created the platform I’ve Seen Your Face Before, part of the project Echoes of the South Atlantic, of the Goethe-Institut São Paulo. In 2018, he was part of the curatoship team of the 10th Berlin Biennale, entitled We Don’t Need Another Hero.
In this 3rd editions of Frestas – The river is a serpent, we have considered the education as one of the curatorship’s cornerstones. I like to think the educational program as the margin of this serpent-river. A river’s margin is its outline, its water’s edge inviting us to dip our feet, or to dive into it. It is the border-area between the exhibition’s inside and outside while impossible to split from it; A margin made of natural materials, porous, allowing exchanges between the river and what is outside of it: from inside to outside, but also from outside to inside. This image says a lot about how the educational program integrates the curatorship of this exhibition, not only outlining and communicating it to its audience, but also extending it across the territory, achieving other interlocutors, inviting them to interfere in it.
With this thought in mind, the Educational Program has been working as it follows:
Approaching the territory: Together with Camila Fontenele, the curatorship’s assistant, we have mapped the city of Sorocaba to dig up its official history and its authors, crossing the past and the present and uncovering the city’s trajectories that were never told of made visible. From this mapping emerges the Apé, a board game that inserts the personal trajectory of the exhibition’s viewer into the discussion regarding the coexistence of different cosmo-perceptions in the same territory.
The Topics for difference and social justice was the formation of educators in this edition of Frestas which has taken place from October 3 to November 21, 2020, remotely, and throughout eight Saturdays amounting to 24 hours of formation. We have built an extensive range of agents from several regions, and ways of thinking education, working with topics still seen as taboo in the classroom such as themes connected to gender and sexuality, childhood and racism, The African diaspora as central in the construction of the Brazilian society, the implementation of the Laws no. 10,639 and 11,645, technology and education, among others. All meetings are available in the YouTube of SESC Sorocaba, and also here on the website.
Afluentes is the educational publication of this edition of Frestas for which we have invited 34 educators and researchers from several regions and educational contexts, aiming to build a widened investigation of sources, perspectives, traditions, and agents that somehow flow into the curatorial concept of this serpent-river. It is a collection of interviews, essays, and syllabus regarding themes such as languages, accessibility, non-conventional educational methodologies, education of adults and the youth, college education, political education, health, spirituality, Africanities and Afro-brazilianess. Short texts working as an opening, an invitation to allow the reader to dive alone so they may understand the best ways for approaching the themes.
The construction and formation of the educational team who will work in the exhibition. We sought to construct the team with college youths from different courses, who had experience of non-hegemonic education, who work with formal or informal education, and who do not necessarily have a previous art background. Our idea is for this team to establish the most diverse views as possible for the exhibition, to learn by coexisting and with their different views from one another and with the audience, and for the knowledge to be collectively constructed across the exhibition’s course, understanding there is not a single knowledge when we talk about art.
In addition to the Afluentes publication which is part of the educational material of Frestas – Triennial of Arts, and had the support of the editorial coordination, this Frestas core, composed of Cecília Floresta, and an internal and external collaboration team, proposes publishing a catalogue with texts gathered from the curatorship, artists’ collaborations, articles, unpublished translations, and an image archive of the exhibition. In this edition, we understand the relevance of a graphic piece not only committed with registering the works and writings related with the exhibition, but also one that may survive this moment, working as a reference piece of the curatorship thought behind the exhibition.
The Visitation Guide is another view of the Frestas, and it gathers technical information and short reviews of the exposed artworks. These reviews are texts commissioned by the curatorship, and produced by agents of different areas, comprising bibliographical approaches, basic descriptions of the works and critic perspectives regarding the works and productions of each artist. It is a piece thought to serve as support for the audience during the exhibition’s course, and it unfolds as a kind of a critic fortune of the 3º Frestas – Triennial of Arts.
Between Post-Truths and Events
Curator: Daniela Labra
From August 12th to December 3rd, 2017
What would the world be without the things that don’t exist?
Curator: Josué Mattos
From October 23, 2014 to May 3, 2015