Geneva J. Anderson on Thu, 29 Jun 2000 11:05:07 -0700

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Syndicate: Sao Paulo and the Africans (Mesquita reply)

I'm forwarding letter as a follow-up to the previous re-post from
Olu Oguibe.  Several 
people wrote me off-list with comments
on the previous letter and Mesquita's reply strikes me as 

very interesting but defensive and predictable.  
but not budging..he claims to be working 
around borders, above 
geopolitics and beyond the 
Is this what we have come to expect from curators at 
exhibitions of this caliber?  

How about some onlist comments from curators/participants ..I'm 
interested in an open discussion but not 
being a curator 
or artist...I do have your insight or 
practical experience.
Geneva Anderson
-----Original Message-----From: 
curadoria.bienal <>To: <>Date: 
Wednesday, June 28, 2000 3:36 PMSubject: Re: Sao Paulo and the 

Dear Olu Oguibe,
Thank you for your letter and your concern with the curatorial structure of 
the XXV Bienal de São Paulo. I acknowledge the importance of your claim 
concerning the exclusion of African intellectuals from curatorial projects 
carried out around the world nowadays. Nonetheless, I would like to clarify some 
key aspects of the project currently under development by my curatorial team and 
myself with which you are evidently unfamiliar:

1. First of all, I believe that your argument stating I am withdrawing from 
the Fundação Bienal de São Pauloâ??s program by not 
following the model adopted by my predecessor â?? which includes a specific 
curator for each continent â?? is hasty and unjustified, since no curator is 
obliged to repeat other professionalsâ?? models regardless of their success 
and efficacy. One must recycle the experience but avoid turning the model into a 
formula. The â??Roteirosâ?? exhibition structure in 1998 incorporated a 
geopolitical division in its presentation and therefore counted with 
professionals from every continent. Yet, whereas two African curators organized 
the African continentâ??s participation, I, from South America, was 
responsible for the representation of the United States and Canada. This 
experience took place with no perplexity and Paulo Herkenhoff was in no instance 
accused of excluding North Americans, nor was I accused of appropriating their 

    The XXV Bienal has adopted a curatorial stance that privileges a 
    dialogue among professionals based in different parts of the world as a 
    strategy, precisely, to erase the geopolitical context defined by borders. 
    In this exhibition, organizations are not being chosen in relation to 
    continental divisions and the resulting exhibition will not group artists 
    according to their origin. As a result, it will be different to the 
    "Five Continents and One City" you mention in your letter and thus 
    to any other biennial structured in terms of national divides. 
    In the same way that the Bienal is not organized around geopolitical 
    divisions, the choice of the curators for the Bienal team and that of all 
    collaborators from around the world does not take into consideration the 
    geographic origins of those professionals. On the contrary, the choice is 
    based exclusively on the projects they have been working on and on the 
    specific contribution they could bring to the XXV Bienal project: the 
    editorial, museological and academic areas, educational programs, and so on. 
    It is clear that when a professional team is formed, previous working 
    experiences and collaborations established with professionals throughout 
    time do not go entirely unnoticed. Some of these collaborations extend in a 
    productive way for a long time and often also expand to the field of 
    friendship. That is one of the beauties of our profession. 
    My team is involved in the curatorship of the entire project. We work 
    beyond geographic or political borders and count with the possibility of 
    collaborators from different parts of the world. This means that the entire 
    curatorial team will be involved with all countries that wish to participate 
    at the XXV Bienal including the selection of artists invited by the 
    institution. Therefore, to talk about the necessity of a curator from any 
    nationality becomes meaningless in this context since that moves away from 
    the projectâ??s orientation. It may be worth noting, though, that among 
    the 7 curators composing my team, 5 come from peripheral countries and only 
    2 from the first-world. 
I think that the issues raised in your letter are extremely relevant and 
should certainly be a source of reflection to any curator or curatorial project 
today. But at the same time, I am a strong opponent of the idea that 
Brazilian/Latin American curators should have a monopoly, or even a preference, 
in the organization of exhibitions of Brazilian/Latin American art. I have found 
the external eye to be quite insightful in cutting through the sediment of local 
prejudice. The matter rests on the ethics and transparency of the professional 
practice and the pertinence and consistency of the project developed. 
Yours sincerely,
Ivo Mesquita