In 2019, Luciara Ribeiro defended her dissertation entitled African Modernisms in the São Paulo Biennials (1951-1961) on the participation of African delegations during the first ten years of the Biennial, which resulted from her research at the Wanda Svevo Historical Archives. In an interview, she talks to Contemporary And Latin America about the importance of revising the hegemonic discourses that permeate the arts in Brazil and Brazilian artistic elites.
C&AL: In your dissertation, African Modernisms in the São Paulo Biennials (1951-1961), you justified your decision to analyze the presence of African artists at the São Paulo Biennial because it coincides with independence processes and the start of thinking that fosters South-South relations. How were these factors echoed in the creation of a biennial that defined itself as an international exhibition, without any concern for defining itself as a Global South event?
Luciara Ribeiro: I began my research by trying to understand how the internationalization of the São Paulo Biennial took place and what international meant in the arts in the 1950s. I wanted to know how African art was included, since I found no mention of this artistic work in the bibliography that was intended to comprise a record of the Biennial. The six editions I studied were organized by the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and were known as the “Modern Biennials”, which married well with my interest in modernism and the formation of arts systems through the internationalization bias. During this period, Ciccillo Matarazzo was interested, even if not in an engaged way, in presenting the Biennial as an event that started in a city of the Global South, which could become a hub for circulation in the arts, like European countries and the USA. But I feel like his interest was limited to the South as a territory, and didn’t include other characteristics for the debate, such as social and race relations and artistic counter-narratives. I believe that the factors that contributed to this unique characteristic of the Biennial were the hegemonic discourses that permeated, and, in a way, still permeate, the arts in Brazil and the country’s artistic elites, having more desire to match/measure up the North than to redefine it.